7 Ways to Make Patients More Comfortable During Blood Draws

For many patients, blood draws are a routine part of medical care, so it's important to ensure the process is as comfortable as possible. Although improving the experience is beneficial to everyone, for people who have a needle phobia, these efforts can be life-saving.

It's estimated that 10 percent of the population struggles with a fear of needles, and this can lead to skipping important blood tests and treatment injections, putting their health at risk. To ensure that all your patients are protected from unnecessary discomfort, check out these seven tips to improve their experience during blood draws.

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Tips for a Successful Blood Drawing 

1. Pay Attention to Patient Body Language

The moment you and the patient make contact, pay close attention to their reaction to determine the level of their anticipatory discomfort. Body language, eye shifting and tone of voice can give you clues about how patients will respond to blood draws. Approaching anxious patients with confidence can help alleviate their fears.

"I go in with confidence," says Rebecca Park, RN and founder of RemediesForMe.com. "If the person who is drawing your blood seems nervous and doesn't seem like they've been doing this for long, it gets the patients more nervous."

2. Communicate With Your Patient

Every patient is different, so what comforts one patient during blood draws may induce anxiety in another. Instead of trying to guess the best way to approach the procedure, ask the patient what would make the process easier for them.

Ross Coyle, Public Relations Officer at Stanford Blood Center says his staff communicates by "explaining the blood draw process to new and anxious donors before and during the procedure." Open communication can make your charges feel more comfortable and establish greater trust in you.

3. Take Your Time

Establishing trust is essential to preventing a patient's discomfort, so try not to rush through blood draws. Give the person time to inform you of any fears they might have and reassure them that you won't insert the needle until they've given consent.

This may take longer for patients with severe phobias, but it's better than the alternatives of traumatizing the patient with restraints or risking the cancellation of necessary blood tests.

4. Have Distractions Available

For some patients, having something to distract them from the procedure can help make blood draws tolerable. "I talk with my patients during the blood draw to relax them," says Park. "If they're not 100 percent focused on the needle, their anxiety goes down and so does the pain."

5. Encourage Patients to Breathe Through The Procedure

Deep breathing can help ease some of the pain caused by blood draws. "To decrease the pain, I have the patients take a deep breath in," offers Park. "As I insert the needle, I have them slowly breathe out." She explains the pain subsides more quickly if the body is relaxed.

6. Encourage Hydration

Dehydration can make it more difficult to find a suitable vein for blood draws. "Ensuring the donors are well-hydrated prior to a donation [helps] minimize the risk of a reaction like lightheadedness or fainting," says Coyle. "We offer them a snack if they haven't eaten as well as encourage them to drink more water."

7. Let Your Patient Warm-up

If your patient has just come in from outside in the winter or if the office you work in stays cool, give your patient an opportunity to warm up before attempting a blood draw. This can be done by allowing the patient to sit in the waiting room a moment or encouraging quick physical activity.

You can even use a warm water bottle or heat pack on the area first. Heat makes veins dilate and expand, increasing the odds that you'll find success on the first needle insertion.

Blood draws are not a procedure that most patients look forward to, but there are ways to reduce discomfort and improve the overall experience.

By using these seven tips, you can ensure you're giving your patients every reason to trust you to do your job and minimizing the pain and trauma that can come with unsuccessful blood draws.

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