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Relationships and Discussions that Can Improve Patient Comfort

Scripts for helping patients navigate recovery

Empathy and compassion alleviate pain. Call patients after outpatient surgery to check on them. Practice effective communication strategies such as listening to, repeating, and legitimizing the patient’s concerns; empathizing with suffering and affirming effective coping; and gently correcting misconceptions that increase pain intensity for a given pain sensation.  The following are example scripts that cover two common concerns about postsurgical pain.

Scenario 1: Inadequate pain control

Click here for a downloadable script. 

Strategy: Empathize, normalize the pain, rule out problems, affirm signs of resilience, strategize, be available.

  • Ask “Does the surgery hurt more than you expected?” then pause to listen to the patient’s answer. Pain feels like something is wrong.  Remembering why there is pain can be helpful.  Give people space to make sense of things.  Be comfortable with silence.
  • Acknowledge that “Pain can feel like something is wrong.” (Rule out compartment syndrome) 
  • Remind them that "Your body needs time to heal, but let’s figure out what’s going on and find ways to reduce your pain to manageable levels.”
  • Ask “Are you using all of the pain management strategies we discussed?" then listen to the strategies they have tried, affirm them, and suggest those they have not.
  • Then run through this script: “If you are having trouble getting comfortable the night after your surgery, try one or more of these strategies:
    • Add acetaminophen if it’s not in the medication you are already taking. 
    • Add ibuprofen or naproxen.
    • Stagger the acetaminophen and ibuprofen so that you’re taking one or the other every three hours.
    • Elevate the surgical area.
    • Apply ice (bag of ice wrapped in a towel; 10 minutes on, 5 minutes off, repeat).”
  • “Which one of those strategies do you think you’d like to try?” Listen for their response and validate their choice.
  • “Do you have someone who can help you while you get over this bump?”
  • “We'll call you later today (or in the morning) and see how you're doing. Call us if you think something is wrong.”
  • “Can you repeat back our plan?” Listen to ensure they know what to do.
  • “Tell me your questions.” Listen with patience and repeat any instructions that were missed.

Scenario 2: Intense pain after block has worn off 

Click here for downloadable script. 

Strategy: Empathize, normalize the pain, rule out problems, strategize, be available.

  • Acknowledge that “It's difficult when the block wears off....it can feel like something is wrong.” 
  • “It should get better from now on.”
  • Ask "Are you using all of the pain management strategies we discussed?" then listen to the strategies they have tried and suggest those they have not.
  • Then run through this script: “If you are having trouble getting comfortable the night after your surgery, you can try to:
    • Add acetaminophen if it’s not in the medication you are already taking. 
    • Add ibuprofen or naproxen.
    • Stagger the acetaminophen and ibuprofen so that you’re taking one or the other every three hours.
    • As nerve block is wearing off, take the stronger pain reliever every 3 hours for the next 3 doses.
    • Elevate the surgical area.
    • Apply ice (bag of ice wrapped in a towel; 10 minutes on, 5 minutes off, repeat).”
  • “Which one of those strategies do you think you’d like to try?” Listen for their response and validate their choice.
  • “Do you have someone who can help you while you get over this bump?”
  • "We'll call you in the morning and see how you're doing. You can page us through the main hospital operator if you think something is wrong.”
  • “Can you repeat back our plan?” Listen to ensure they know what to do.
  • “Tell me your questions.” Listen with patience and repeat any instructions that were missed.