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This Tuesday, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners® (AANP) opened the doors to the 2022 AANP National Conference — bringing thousands of nurse practitioners (NPs) together at the Orange County Convention Center for a week filled with continuing education (CE) sessions, exclusive keynote speakers and networking opportunities. As attendees reconnect with their NP colleagues and celebrate the return of the in-person national conference experience, explore some of the key takeaways from the opening day educational sessions.
Alyssa Burkhart, MSN, FNP-C, works at the Hendricks Regional Health Immediate Care and is the mother of a child with ASD. Drawing from both professional and personal experience, Burkhart’s presentation, Autism Spectrum Disorder: Training for Health Care Providers, provided attendees with insights on how to better accommodate children with ASD in health care settings. While no two people with ASD are the same, the tools and approaches discussed by Burkhart offer various strategies for keeping patients with ASD happy and healthy.
Attendees learned several exam techniques they can use to keep patients with ASD calm throughout their visit. By drawing upon the skills NPs utilize every day to provide exceptional person-centered care, you can treat patients with ASD compassionately and obtain better outcomes. This can be as simple as giving your patients the choice of where and how they are examined or allowing them to play, talk, sing or draw to distract themselves from your examination. Additionally, you can provide your patients with a sensory box (a box filled with various sensory toys, such as balls and fidget toys) and visual aids (such as communication boards for non-verbal individuals) that make their visits more enjoyable and understandable.
Burkhart stressed that a few minutes combined with a change in routine to meet the needs of these patients can make all the difference. When patients with ASD are showing signs of agitation, you should stop, pause and readjust their care accordingly. Whether that means enlisting the help of the patient’s caregiver for recommendations on how to keep them calm or reevaluating whether you truly need information from the patient that they might find triggering or uncomfortable, like taking their temperature or recording their height, a change in perspective is often all it takes to ensure this patient population receives the best possible care.
For health care providers, it is not a matter of “if” they will have to deliver bad news to a patient, but “when.” Yet, most health care providers are not formally trained in breaking bad news. This can lead to some incredibly stressful and traumatic experiences for patients and providers alike. That’s why Holly Watson-Evans, MS, APRN, FNP-BC, PMHNP-BC, presented NPs with the tools and mnemonic devices needed to excel in this aspect of care during the session, “When the News is Bad: Communicating Difficult Information.”
When it comes to a patient’s health, there are at least three different ways of viewing their condition. An illness is an individual’s own subjective experience of ill health. A disease is a medically defined pathology diagnosed by a health care provider. Sickness is a social role that describes the community perception of an individual. Though you cannot control an individual’s perception of their condition, or the way others perceive them, these aspects all play a vital role in how a patient reacts to bad news and can provide insight on how they should consider sharing this news with others after they leave your practice. Before you share the news, ask your patients what they might already know or anticipate coming into your practice. Understanding a patient’s expectations and the information they have received from their personal or community experience can inform how you move forward.
Watson-Evans shared a few key strategies for delivering bad news. First, NPs can consider the environment in which they share difficult information with their patients. Create a private setting and take a seat to help connect with the patient on a more personal level. Once the environment is set, communication is key. Watson-Evans stressed the need to consider a patient’s comprehension and vocabulary in order to avoid confusing them with medical terminology. Provide them with a warning statement regarding the news they are about to receive and proceed to deliver the information in small chunks — stopping at various points to make sure they are understanding the information being imparted. By pairing these strategies with NPs’ exceptional ability to provide empathetic care for patients, you can help make a tremendous impact in how your patients react to these life-changing developments.
Would you like to access sessions like those mentioned in this article and help expand your clinical knowledge in a variety of practice areas? It’s not too late to join in the national conference fun — consider joining your colleagues at the 2022 AANP National Conference — Online.
Attend this event to select from more than 80 CE sessions, learn the latest developments in NP-delivered care and network with like-minded NPs from across the country. With the ability to access all the sessions at your convenience through July 27, the online national conference is the perfect opportunity for busy NPs to grow professionally from the comfort of their own home.