The term special needs encompasses a wide variety of things. Your patient may have a series of anxieties that make treatment difficult. Or they may have physical disabilities or cognitive impairments that limit your options as well. Whatever the case, there is quite a bit of debate lately over whether or not special needs patients deserve different treatment than others. The answer is complicated. Here are some things to consider when treating your special needs patients.

Be patient and listen to concerns.

Good care always starts with good listening skills. Take time to talk to your patients about their specific physical, cognitive, or emotional concerns. The more aware you are the better you’ll be able to respond appropriately to their specific needs. If you cannot talk with the patient directly, take this time to speak with their parent or guardian.

Provide information to help them transition back to home.

A concern from patients who have left hospital care is the lack of information on how to transition back to home life. This is especially concerning for someone who already has difficulty with a variety of daily tasks. Without the right support, they may have more trouble than the average patient. Help them find the right resources.

Make care understandable and accessible.

There will be times when you deal with a patient who has specific challenges such as autism or Down syndrome. This can be frustrating for you if you’re not prepared, but imagine how frustrating and scary medical care can be for these patients. Educate yourself and do your best to make the care they receive understandable and even provide ideas of how they can help themselves.

Encourage patients and their family to become advocates.

Most importantly, your patients need to know that they should make their concerns known. Doctors and nurses aren’t magic. They also aren’t mind readers. The only way for you to know whether or not the treatment or information is helpful and understood is for the patient or their families to speak up and let you know. Encourage them to be their own medical advocates.

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