As with part one, the procedure itself will not be detailed, as it is not under discussion, currently. My experience as a patient will be the focus, so I will relate my experience back to those who you will be performing these tests on throughout your careers.
After part I, my legs- nay- my whole body ached, so I was looking forward to my echocardiography patient experience, as it would not only give me an idea as to my heart’s structural health, but also give me a bit of lie down…
Unlike those patients who have never undergone an echo procedure, I knew what to expect, as I had observed more than a few and have had a go at one before, but I was still apprehensive, given the required level of undress and the fact that I had never had one before. I had an idea that my heart was in fairly good condition, but you never know for sure until you have results so as you can imagine, for a patient with a suspected pathology the time spent waiting for the test is a nerve-wracking experience.
Hearing people talk about what they can see on images of your heart that, due to the angle you are often required to lie and that of the monitor, you can’t see, isn’t wholly pleasant, so it was easy for me to further empathise with patients having the procedure themselves. In addition to this, the feeling of exposure is made worse by the positions one is required to remain in; my hips, shoulders and legs were uncomfortable to the point that they hurt after 20 or so minutes. Guidelines recommend that an echo procedure takes 45 minutes, and whilst a patient is supine for some of it, an elderly patient, or one with previous limb surgeries will likely find the scan more painful than I did, especially when required to roll onto their side.
There is an odd feeling of one’s personal space being invaded, as the practitioner has to reach across the patient’s trunk in order to reach the designated areas for scanning, which further adds to the discomfort.
These things combined, meant that my longed-for lie down, was not as relaxing as it could have been. Throw the anxiety that comes with a) being in a clinical setting, and b) awaiting a verdict on your heart health/ a pathology, and I can only imagine how much more uncomfortable an experience it is for patients.
My echo and stress test experiences have shown me that, even when procedures are at opposite ends of the patient participation scale*, patients have to endure a great deal of discomfort. Even though echo is physically non-invasive, it comes with a heap of emotional distress, so when you’re out on placement, just think about what your patients are going through.
If you’re having a bad day, remember that, even if their visit is routine, due to simply having to be there, your patient’s is probably worse.
*not an officially recognised scale