Placing electrodes and performing EEG studies requires patient cooperation — at the very least, the patient needs to be still enough for a good setup and accurate reading. An agitated or confused patient can do themselves, or those around them, serious harm.

Neurodiagnostic technologists cannot order, implement, or officially monitor patient restraint. However, the practice can have a big impact on their work.

That is why all techs need to understand the rules and ethics of patient restraint, according to a new paper published in the Neurodiagnostic Journal. Every day in the U.S., 27,000 patients are put in restraints, according to the paper.

Risks of Patient Restraint

Physical restraints restrict patient movement or normal access to the body, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Examples may include leg and arm straps, hand mitts, vests, and lap cushions or trays. Improper use of these tools can result in sanctions by CMS or the Joint Commission. It can also cause emotional and physical harm to patients.

According to one study, 25 percent to 47 percent of patients experience post-traumatic stress after restraint. Other emotional injuries include loss of dignity, agitation, and delirium. Improper restraint can cause respiratory complications, incontinence, bruising, and even death.

All of this must be balanced with the understanding that immobilizing patients might be necessary to guarantee safety, according to the Neurodiagnostics Journal research.

“Restraints should only be utilized as a last resort for the safety of the patient to receive proper care,” the authors write. “There are also the underlying complicating factors of professional ethics and morals, as well as the potential emotional distress of all involved to consider before resorting to restraint use.”

The authors emphasize the value of technologists understanding their organization’s policies. They also highlight several alternatives that may be just as effective.

Restraint Alternatives

  • Modify the environment. Dim the lights, play soft music, declutter the room, adjust the temperature, limit the number of people around the patient.
  • Distract the patient. Give the patient a tablet or mobile device, play a video, or have another person talk to the patient.
  • Adjust your behavior. Take the time to earn patient trust. You can manage expectations, use a low calm voice, and praise positive behavior.
  • Give the patient a repetitive task. Sorting paper clumps, putting together a puzzle, folding towels, tying knots in a string, blowing bubbles, or using a stress ball can help distract patients.
  • Seek help from nursing staff. Your colleagues can make sure the patient is pain free, not hungry or thirsty, and doesn’t have to use the bathroom.



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