Tips To Help Patients Relax Prior To Surgery

Tips To Help Patients Relax Prior To Surgery

Whether you’re a surgical nurse, an ICU nurse or a med-surg nurse you deal with patients who often need surgery. Many patients are petrified of the operating room.

Why? because it’s the unknown. A place where it may be very familiar to you, (especially if you’re a surgical nurse), but it’s a very scary place for patients. 

You don’t want a stressed out patient because stress can have an adverse affect on healing and can slow the entire process down.  How do you lessen their fear and improve their outcome? 

Patients are also afraid of the procedure itself.  They worry about what could go wrong. “what happens if I die?,”  “what if the surgeon doesn’t know what he’s doing?,”  ‘what if I poop on the operating room table or pee myself?” All of these things are very frightening to patients and rightly so.

If fear isn’t dealt with you may end up with a patient that is spiraling out of control. So fearful that they refuse to listen to reason. So before it gets this far we have to step in and help them. 

What can we do as nurses to help them relax?  

Talk to them

Conversing with patients helps to create a trust that helps them feel more secure. If they feel they can relate to you then they’ll trust what you’re going to do to them before the surgery.

You can converse with them and be a good listener while you’re prepping them and they’ll hardly notice what you’re doing. Conversing with patients can even alleviate the need to use pre-op sedatives. 


Explain their procedure to them. If you don’t know much about it, look it up. Fear of the unknown can be overwhelming.

The operating room is a strange environment. If you can take a few minutes and explain the procedure to them they’ll be much calmer.

What’ll happen to them and what they’ll see and feel while in the OR,  It can help them relax tremendously.

If you have a video of the procedure they’re scheduled for offer it to them. The more they know, the more relaxed they’ll be. 

Auditory Stimulation

Listening to music before, during and after the procedure can  be extremely therapeutic.  When patients listen to music while stressed they focus on the words and the music, which sometimes reminds them of different times in their life and helps them escape.

Before they realize they’ve forgotten what is happening in the here and now. 


If you haven’t learned to meditate yourself you should try it. Nurses do have stressful lives and it’s important to use relaxation techniques to release stress.

Once you’ve learned to meditate you can teach your patients. Meditation teaches you to live in the moment, which reduces stress.  

Most of the things people stress about are things in the past or the future. If patients can learn to meditate it can relax them for hours after the surgery and promote better healing. 

Of course, if all else fails, try some Versed…No, not for yourself, for your patient!