6 Tips For Putting Pediatric Patients at Ease During MRIs

Dealing with pediatric patients as an MRI tech can be very different than working with adults. Even techs who work with children on a regular basis, such as in a children's hospital, may encounter some who are more resistant or nervous about the procedure than others.

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Six Tips to Put Your Pediatric Patients at Ease

1. Give kids plenty of information

One of the best tips for calming pediatric patients before MRIs is to give them plenty of information about what's going to happen. Diana Fitts, an occupational therapist with The Sensory Toolbox, explains, "Kids have wild imaginations, and something like an MRI can be dreamt up into something much scarier than it is."

Give young patients plenty of facts ahead of time, such as what the MRI machine sounds like, what the room smells like and even the textures a patient might encounter during the test. According to Fitts, "When we give kids information about what they are about to experience, they can feel more agency and control, which can ease their fears."

2. Use kid-friendly language

Preparing a patient for a pediatric MRI is very different from working with adult patients who have a general understanding of what the test entails. Child psychologist Heather Chamberlain of Marin Meaningful Therapy advises medical professionals to "be ready to explain every step of the procedure in child-friendly language.

You might even have a stuffed animal and show that animal going through the MRI machine or whatever the child will be experiencing."

Chamberlain also recommends keeping your voice and body language calm to prevent young patients from picking up on any of your stress. Using kid-friendly language helps pediatric patients understand what to expect without giving them anything new to worry about.

3. Play some music

Music has both physical and psychological effects on the human body, making it an excellent tool for anyone working with pediatric patients on a regular basis. According to Amy Smith of Texas Children's Hospital, music interventions help patients "tap into the natural feel-good benefits of music," which can have a calming effect.

Even if your employer doesn't have a formal music therapy program, you can put the power of music to work for your patients by playing soothing music before and during each pediatric MRI you perform. Try Mozart's Sonata No. 16 in C Major, Handel's Water Music or Pachelbel's Canon in D to ease anxiety and help young patients stay calm.

4. Offer choices whenever possible

In an article published in the World Journal of Clinical Pediatrics, Julie Lerwick notes that a medical facility is a "powerless environment" for young patients.

People tend to cope better when they believe that events are under their control (internal locus of control) rather than someone else's control (external locus of control).

Offering choices to your pediatric patients helps strengthen their internal locus of control and achieve a sense of power rather than powerlessness, easing anxiety and improving the experience.

If possible, let your patients choose whether they want to wear a gown or a pair of scrubs. Not all hospitals have both gowns and scrubs available for pediatric patients, so a good alternative would be to let patients choose whether they want to wear socks during the test.

5. Let patients experience a range of emotions

One of the most useful tips for calming pediatric patients is to reflect each emotion as it occurs, which helps patients feel safe and understood. Lerwick explains that it is important for medical professionals to validate children's feelings and tell them that everyone feels afraid at times.

Letting children experience their emotions fully is more effective than brushing off their concerns because it gives them more control of the process.

6. Work with parents and other caregivers

In a 2015 article in the journal Critical Care, Jennifer Dziuba-Pallotta refers to parents as "powerful allies" for medical professionals because parents know how their children typically react to stressful situations.

If your employer allows it, have parents sit in the room while you are performing the MRI. Parents, grandparents and other caregivers can remind young children to stay still, and they can also help soothe upset children to ensure that you can finish the MRI instead of having to stop and reschedule.

Learning how to put pediatric patients at ease is essential for success in almost any health career. If you regularly perform MRIs on young children, try some of these tips for calming pediatric patients.

When young patients are calm, it takes less time to perform their scans, and you're more likely to get better images.

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