Anxiety as a factor influencing satisfaction with emergency department care: perspectives of accompanying persons

Anna Ekwall, Marie Gerdtz, Elizabeth Manias
Journal of Clinical Nursing 2009, 18 (24): 3489-97

AIM: To measure levels of anxiety among people accompanying consumers to the emergency department and to explore how anxiety influences satisfaction with care.

BACKGROUND: When people seek treatment in an emergency department they are often accompanied by a next-of-kin, family member or friend. While the accompanying person plays a vital role in providing psycho-social support to consumers, little is known about how they perceive the quality of care. Learning more about how accompanying persons perceive care may inform the development of strategies to enhance communication processes between staff, consumers and accompanying persons. DESIGN; A prospective cross-sectional survey design.

METHODS: Data were collected from a consecutive sample of accompanying persons at one Australian metropolitan teaching hospital. Of all eligible individuals approached, 128/153 (83.7%) returned completed questionnaires. The questionnaire comprised a series of open- and close-ended questions about perceptions of medical need, urgency and satisfaction with the overall visit. Anxiety was assessed using the Visual Analogue Scale for Anxiety (VAS-A).

RESULTS: There was a significant association between the accompanying person's levels of anxiety and satisfaction at point of discharge. In the satisfied group, mean VAS-A scores were 17.4 (SD 17.5) compared to 42.9 (SD 26.6) in the not satisfied group (p = 0.011). Moreover, those participants who were not satisfied with the visit did not show a significant reduction in VAS-A scores from triage to point of discharge.

CONCLUSION: The lower the level of anxiety reported by accompanying persons when leaving the emergency department, the more satisfied they are likely to be with their emergency department visit. Ultimately, well informed and confident accompanying persons are beneficial for ensuring quality patient support.

RELEVANCE TO CLINICAL PRACTICE: Asking accompanying persons about their anxiety level before discharge gives them the opportunity to pose clarifying questions and is, therefore, an effective way of improving their satisfaction with the emergency department visit.

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