By: Ryan Rivera 
[Editor's Note: This blog will be published in an upcoming issue of Cath Lab Digest, along with selected commentaries. We invite you to comment as well, and share your experience and advice to help fellow readers.]
Studies have shown that patients often experience anxiety before catheterization, and treating or reducing that anxiety is an important part of ensuring a safe procedure. Numerous research studies have evaluated potential methods of decreasing the patient’s anxiety with varying levels of success (1). Regardless of the method, the obvious conclusion is that anxiety is a common, negative event that can be harmful for the patient.
We as staff are all aware of patient anxiety related to the procedure, but what about the technologists and nurses that are part of the cardiac catheterization team?
The truth is that many staff members have anxiety before procedures, and yet that anxiety is rarely addressed, as the needs of the patient are often seen as paramount over the needs of the team. Yet it is important for staff to be as confident and anxiety-free as possible during the procedure. If team members are anxious and nervous about the procedure, this will affect the level of confidence the patient will have in the team’s abilities.
It is important to regularly address anxiety that may occur before, after, and during a procedure.
Tips for reducing anxiety
• Learn to breathe
Anxiety is not always nervousness about life, the success of the procedure or the health of the patient. Sometimes it is the result of something more physical, and often due to not breathing properly. Without full, deep breaths, you heartbeat will increase and light-headedness may result. So make sure you are taking healthy breaths.
• Focus on the patient
Another method of reducing anxiety is to not focus on it. Often this is easier said than done, but anxiety attacks tend to increase when you are trying your best not to be anxious. Find a way to focus more on the patient during the procedure. If you are especially nervous, try talking quietly to yourself, rehearsing any tasks you may need to do out loud so that you are focused on your tasks and not your anxiety level.
• Talk with your coworkers
Hiding your anxiety can also be problematic. When you try to hide your anxiety from those around you, you will discover that it actually increases the severity and/or frequency of the symptoms. Most people feel that sharing such a feeling can be embarrassing, but the effects of not sharing it can be far worse. Rather than hide it, tell your coworkers. Let them be supportive and overlook your work so that you feel less pressure on yourself and know that you have a team around you.
Exercise is another technique that helps to decrease your anxiety. Try to start exercising before or after work. While not everyone has the opportunity to see a therapist or utilize other anxiety reduction techniques, exercise is the one method that's simply effective and most people can arrange their daily schedules to provide time for some type of exercise. Exercise creates a better mood, improves confidence, and tires out your body in a way that reduces the severity of anxiety symptoms.
• Reduce daily anxiety
Finally, anxiety accumulates in a way that is unlike other types of mental health problems. The more you experience it regularly, the more severe your anxiety feels when you have natural anxiety during a catheterization procedure. If you utilize techniques such as anxiety tests to increase your awareness and help lower your life anxiety outside of your work, it will help to ensure as much calmness as possible, and any natural anxiousness will start to disappear.
Reducing procedural anxiety
It is not uncommon to find that you have some anxiety during the performance of a procedure, regardless of your level of experience. In some ways it might even be beneficial – keeping you on your toes and making sure that you never get too confident with your abilities. When anxiety starts to disrupt your ability to perform your job adequately, however, it becomes a problem. Look for ways to reduce your anxiety, and you will find that your work becomes much easier and less dangerous for the patient.
Ryan Rivera writes more at http://www.calmclinic.com .
1. 1. Cooper K, Stollings S. Guided imagery for anxiety. End of Life/Palliative Education Resource Center. Medical College of Wisconsin. Available online at http://www.eperc.mcw.edu/EPERC/FastFactsIndex/ff_211.htm . Accessed April 5, 2012.