Reducing fear for kids who need blood tests or shots

June 25, 2014 Kendra Hough

Imagine the following scenario:  for several weeks, your daughter has been complaining of a tummy ache.  You find yourself sitting in her doctor’s office hoping to uncover what’s wrong.  Your daughter is nervous, but you’re doing your best to assure her that the doctor will come in soon, ask a few questions and make the pain go away. 
Just as the visit comes to a close, the doctor mentions that he’d like to “run some tests”.  Immediately, the looks on your daughter’s face changes, and you know she’s scared.   Tears well-up in her eyes as she whispers in your ear, “What tests, mommy?  What does he mean….Are they going to poke me?”  Whispers soon escalate into screams, “How big is the needle?  Does this mean I’m getting shots? NO!  No shots! Please mommy, no shots!”
Being a phlebotomist, this is a common scenario that I know all too well.  Since I came to work at the Swedish Pediatric Specialty Care clinic almost 2 years ago, I’ve made it my personal challenge to make a child’s phlebotomy experience as smooth and pleasant as possible.  The entire team here is committed to show children that doctor visits can be fun.  Even though part of the medical experience may include having blood drawn, it doesn’t have to be painful or scary. 
Some of the tools I use to make children feel less nervous include showing them respect and affection.  I ask children to talk to me about their fears, what they might have experienced previously.  I also give them freedom and independence in the process.  They can choose to sit by themselves, or on their parent’s lap.  I explain everything I am doing, going as slowly or as fast as the individual child wants, leaving them in as much control as possible.  Sometimes we count together, sometimes we sing, and usually, the blood is drawn before the child even knows it!
We have cool toys and stickers that the kids get when they come see me.  Pretty soon, I hope to incorporate a gadget called a Buzzy that has been shown to reduce pain from shots and needles, too. 
Still however, despite all of my best tricks and efforts, there are a few children that have a hard time moving past their fears or difficulty keeping still for the test.  In that case, Swedish Pediatrics offers another unique alternative:  families can arrange to have a child’s blood drawn by a pediatric hospital nurse, who will also administer nitrous oxide (aka “laughing gas”) to decrease anxiety. 
Even though I wish that infants and children could be shielded from all illness and never need to have any medical tests, there usually comes a time in almost every child’s life when a blood test needs to be run.  By writing this blog today, I wanted to let you know that when you bring your child to Swedish Pediatrics, you’ll be in the best of hands!

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