Dealing with anxious patients

by | Jun 13, 2023 | Community Pharmacy, Immunisation, Phlebotomy, Practice Nurse

Vaccinations have long been hailed as one of the most effective ways to prevent and control infectious diseases. However, for some individuals, the thought of getting vaccinated can evoke feelings of anxiety and fear. As healthcare providers, it is crucial to understand and address the concerns of dealing with anxious patients to help them make informed decisions about their health. In this blog post, we will explore strategies for vaccinating anxious patients, creating a supportive environment, and fostering confidence in the vaccination process.

1)Create a calm environment to help put your anxious patient at ease:

Ensure the environment is quiet, comfortable, and free from unnecessary distractions. Soft lighting, soothing music, or nature sounds can help create a calming atmosphere.

2)Empathy and active listening for the anxious patient:

image showing Pharmacist dealing with anxious patient, empathy,

When dealing with anxious patients, it’s essential to approach them with empathy and patience. Take the time to actively listen to their concerns and validate their emotions. Understand that their fears may stem from misinformation or previous negative experiences. By acknowledging their anxiety, you can begin to build trust and create a safe space for discussion. Maintain eye contact, use nonverbal cues to show you are engaged, and avoid interrupting them. Letting them express their worries can help alleviate anxiety. Let them know that anxiety is a common experience and that you understand their concerns. Assure them that you are there to support and help them.

3)Provide accurate information for your anxious patient:

Anxiety often thrives in the presence of uncertainty. Counteract this by offering reliable and evidence-based information about vaccines. Explain how vaccines work, their benefits, and address common misconceptions or myths. Present the data on vaccine safety, efficacy, and the rigorous approval process. Ensure that your patients have access to credible resources to further educate themselves. Use simple and clear language when explaining procedures, treatments, or any necessary information. Avoid using medical jargon that may further confuse or overwhelm the patient. When dealing with anxious patients, allow them to ask questions and address their concerns.

4)Individualised vaccine education:

Tailor your vaccine education to meet the specific needs of each anxious patient. When dealing with anxious patients, some individuals may require more detailed explanations or visual aids, while others might benefit from simplified information. Gauge their understanding and adapt your approach accordingly. Providing personalised education can alleviate anxiety by addressing specific concerns and ensuring a thorough understanding of the vaccination process.

5)Gradual exposure:

For patients with severe anxiety, a gradual exposure approach can be effective. Start by discussing vaccines in a non-threatening manner, addressing their questions and concerns at their own pace. Gradually introduce more detailed information about the specific vaccine they will receive. When dealing with an anxious patient, offer the option for a pre-vaccine visit to familiarise themselves with the vaccination site, healthcare professionals, and the overall process. They may also find it useful to look at the vaccine box and maybe the vaccination itself to reduce anticipation and just getting the patient to roll their sleeve up and show them where the vaccine will be administered without the fear of having an injection may help and this will prepare them for their next visit.

6)Distraction techniques:

During the vaccination itself, distraction techniques can help alleviate anxiety. When dealing with anxious patients, encourage patients to engage in deep breathing exercises, listen to calming music, or focus on a specific object. Engaging in conversation about unrelated topics can also divert their attention and reduce stress. The goal is to provide a positive and calming experience during the vaccination process. Allow the patient to watch if they want to as some find this reduces the anticipation or they can choose to countdown etc but the key is ensuring they feel in control and they’re not going to be caught unawares.

7)Respect personal boundaries:

When dealing with anxious patients, be mindful of personal space and maintain appropriate physical boundaries. Some anxious patients may feel more comfortable with a trusted person accompanying them, so be open to accommodating a support person if necessary. Though a seated position is preferred for vaccination, those with anxiety may want to lie down (

8)Emotional support:

image showing a clinic consultation with a female, giving support to an anxious patient

Anxiety can be eased by the presence of a supportive and understanding healthcare professional. Offer reassurance, validate their concerns, and provide encouragement throughout the vaccination process. When dealing with anxious patients, ensure that patients feel comfortable asking questions or expressing their fears. By establishing a compassionate environment, you can help them build confidence in their decision to get vaccinated.

9)Collaborate on a plan:

Involve the patient in the decision-making process whenever possible. Collaborate on a plan of action, ensuring they understand their options and the potential outcomes. This can help empower them and reduce their anxiety. As healthcare professionals we must remember to allow the patient to refuse and we allow this without judgement and offer an ‘open door’ policy so the patient knows they can return anytime for their vaccination.


Remember, each patient is unique, and different approaches may work better for some individuals than others. It’s important to tailor your approach to each person’s specific needs and preferences while maintaining professionalism and empathy throughout the process. Also consider the option of offering longer appointments for anxious patients.

Vaccinating anxious patients requires a multifaceted approach that addresses their concerns, provides accurate information, and fosters a supportive environment. By demonstrating empathy, providing personalised education, and employing distraction techniques, healthcare professionals can help alleviate anxiety and encourage hesitant patients to embrace the benefits of vaccination. Together, we can work towards a healthier and more resilient community, one vaccination at a time.

Whether you’re new to vaccinations or need an annual update, Health Academy have a variety of immunisation courses to keep you up to date with your training, click on the link and have a look:

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