Calming fearful patients is an essential skill for phlebotomists. Patients of all ages may be afraid of needles, blood or simply the unknown, and it’s the phlebotomist’s job to reassure them that they’re safe and alleviate their concerns as much as possible.
To be able to calm a fearful patient, you need to remain calm and your tone of voice and body language need to reflect that calmness. Your mindset can rub off onto your patients: if something is bothering you, whether at work or at home, do your best to put it aside until your shift is over. Any stress or anxiety you display can be contagious, even if what you’re feeling is completely unrelated to drawing blood.
Acting and speaking in a professional manner goes a long way in calming fearful patients. It shows that you know what you’re doing and gives patients the confidence that they’re in good hands. Making eye contact can also reassure patients as well as help you assess how they’re really feeling—even if they say they’re fine.
Adult or teenage patients may try to hide their anxiety. However, recognizing these feelings is essential in calming fearful patients. That’s why listening and reading body language and facial expressions is important. Asking a simple question— “Have you had this procedure done before?” —can reveal a good deal about patients’ fears without directly asking if they are afraid. They might answer that they haven’t had blood drawn in a long time and aren’t sure what to expect. Or, they might tell you about a bad experience and reveal their fear of a repeat of that experience.
Whatever the patient says, listen, not only to what they say but how they say it. Their tone of voice might give a very different message than their words. Fidgeting, rapid breathing and avoiding eye contact are just a few of the signs that a patient might be afraid.
Some patients’ fear isn’t of blood or needles, but of the unknown. By explaining what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it, you can help to turn the unknown into a more manageable known.
When calming fearful patients who are children, several additional strategies may be helpful. While professionalism is still important, a friendly tone and getting down on their level can help put pediatric patients at ease. Explain what you’re doing in an age-appropriate language without saying that the procedure will hurt, which can reinforce fears. Younger children can be distracted with a toy or other object, and children of any age may feel more comfortable holding a parent’s hand.
Calming fearful patients is an important part of every phlebotomist’s job. By acting professionally, making eye contact, recognizing signs of fear and explaining the procedure, you can reassure your patients and make having blood drawn as free of stress as possible.