If you're in need of surgery, West Virginia is not the place to be today, where 39 surgeons from four different hospitals are on strike to protest the rising cost of malpractice insurance. As a result, the Wheeling-based hospitals have been forced to either transfer surgery-bound patients to hospitals outside the city or postpone procedures for non-life-threatening problems. While state legislators try to formulate a solution, patients can only wait until the strike is over.
"Their surgeries are going to have more complications," says Susan J. Nathan, Ph.D., a health psychologist and surgery preparation specialist. "[The strike] will cause an increase in anxiety and fear, which will in turn cause the body to produce more stress hormones."
Postponing a scheduled surgical procedure ratchets up stress in an already nerve-racking event. "More blood is lost during surgery, patients need more pain medication and afterwards there are more complications. It's not a good thing," explains Nathan.
"Everything works against you when you are anxious and fearful," Nathan continues. She recommends that patients who are awaiting the strike's end use relaxation techniques such as meditation or breathing exercises. And to further help lower anxiety, she suggests talking to a pre-surgery therapist or using audio therapy, which is essentially listening to relaxing music.