DaVita® Medical Insights

Helping Patients Cope with Loneliness while Social Distancing

Most of us feel the need to connect during this time of social distancing due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic; the same is true—maybe even to a greater degree—for our patients. Our patients’ feelings of loneliness while social distancing may be affected by having less or no in-person visits with family and friends—due to the patient being in a high-risk group for becoming infected with the virus—and by not being allowed to have visitors in centers. This post provides examples of useful responses to patients and their care partners when they show anger or frustration at the no-visitor policy. Also provided in this post are some tips for how to connect with your patients during this pandemic.

Some patients and their care partners may be upset and show frustration with the no-visitor policy at dialysis centers. Below is a five-part response that may be useful to follow in this situation:

  1. Thank the care partner for bringing the patient to his or her appointment and being honest about their feelings.
  2. Show empathy toward the care partner by acknowledging the difficulty in not being allowed to accompany the patient as they normally have in the past.
  3. Explain the why behind the policy by mentioning that the center is following guidance from the CDC in not allowing visitors and the staff has the priority of protecting the safety of all patients.
  4. Perform an emotional root cause analysis by asking the care partner what they are most concerned about.
  5. Try to address their concern or put their mind at ease by promising the care partner, for example, that you will personally check on the patient during treatment.

As an essential health care provider, your interaction with patients may be the only or one of the few that they have in person now. Therefore, you have the opportunity to help them feel more connected during their visit to the center by taking any or all of the following actions:

  • Give patients a super warm welcome right as they enter—before you hand them a mask.
  • Greet them and smile—with your eyes—during screening or when you first see them.
  • Use the 30 seconds of temperature taking to connect with them by asking about their weekend or simply saying “Happy Friday!”
  • Before they leave, thank them for going through this check and/or for wearing their mask.

As mentioned in our previous blog post on empathy, in order to be present for your patients and to help them feel that you genuinely care, make sure that you are practicing good self-care. Remember that we are all in this together and like you, our patients want to feel that they are not alone. Often, it is the small things that connect us and when you connect with your patients, you both may leave feeling better than you had earlier that day.

For behavioral health-related resources, including additional tips for patients on how to manage their loneliness while social distancing, visit DaVita.com/Coping.

Amanda “Mandy” Tilton, DNP, MSN, MBA, RN, CNN

Amanda “Mandy” Tilton, DNP, MSN, MBA, RN, CNN

Mandy Tilton, DNP, MSN, RN, chief nursing officer for DaVita, leads the nursing strategy at DaVita Kidney Care. She started with DaVita in 2001 as a patient care technician while completing nursing school, and after graduation, served as clinical coordinator, then facility administrator and then regional operations director. These responsibilities included all modalities and both chronic and acute dialysis. She has served as chairwoman of the Nurses & Technician Council for the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois and is currently on the board of directors. Mandy has delivered multiple clinical and operational presentations to groups in the kidney care industry. Mandy holds an associate’s in nursing degree from Kishwaukee College in Malta, Illinois, and a bachelor of science in nursing and a master of science in nursing degree from Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois. Additionally, she earned her MBA from Lewis University. She obtained her doctorate of nursing practice degree from Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois and currently serves and adjunct faculty for the University.

Amber Pace, LCSW

Amber Pace, LCSW

Amber Pace is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Licensed Addiction Counselor whose passion is building successful teams who provide great care to patients, improving the quality of life they experience. Amber joins DaVita from Centura Health, where she most recently led development and growth of a 26-site integrated primary care behavioral health program. Prior to Centura, she served patients as a clinician at Jefferson Center for Mental Health and began her career with the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless in downtown Denver. Amber is also an Adjunct Faculty at University of Denver, where she teaches in the Graduate School of Social Work (SW). At DaVita, Amber is working with our national SW team to advance our focus on counseling and serving the behavioral health needs of our patients in our clinics and as part of our integrated kidney care programs.