As a medical laboratory scientist, I have an interesting perspective on providing and surviving blood draws with kids because I had the unfortunate experience of performing my oldest child’s first blood draw.

I thought, “I know how to do this. My son Brody trusts me and follows my instructions. This should be smooth.” Um…no. Here’s what I learned about my son that day: Brody is a leftie, Brody is strong (He did join the Army at 18), and Brody doesn’t like blood draws.

Luckily, most parents don’t have to actually do the blood draw; however, it can be just as hard to simply be there with them during the procedure. It doesn’t matter who you are, how much they trust you, or how much authority you think you have over the child—it hurts, they’re not used to it, and they have a natural response to try to stop it. I wish I’d thought more about it at the time and had followed my own advice for other parents.

Tips for Parents Taking a Child to Get Blood Drawn

1. Stay Calm

Your children look to you for clues as to how to respond in situations they haven’t encountered before. If you’re panicked, they will respond in the same way. I admit, I was a little stressed performing my child’s blood draw, and even though I didn’t think it showed on my face, Brody knew something was up. I swear kids can feel it when parents are stressed.

2. Leave the Room

If you’re uncomfortable or don’t think you can stay calm, leave the room—this is not uncommon! You’d be surprised how many parents ask if it’s okay to leave the room. It is, and no, we do NOT judge parents who leave the room. In fact, many kids handle blood collections better without their parents there

3. If You Stay in the Room, Here’s How You Can Help Your Child

If you choose to stay, you can help keep your child be calm by holding his hand or rubbing her back. However, if you’re not comfortable with this, refer to #2.

4. Do NOT Feel Guilty

Will your child cry? Most likely. It’s not a fun process for anyone, not even the person doing the collection, but it’s a necessary evil. It will be over quickly, and it’s needed to monitor or treat your child.

5. Use Distractions

In 2006, the results of a study about “the numbing effect of TV” were reported in the British Journal Archives of Disease in Childhood. Researchers confirmed that television is so distracting for children that those watching TV reported lower pain levels than those not watching TV during the collection. In fact, they found that cartoons were more comforting than Mom! Along these lines, Bryan has a new way that is proving very effective in distracting and entertaining children and adults alike.

Transform Your Child’s Experience From Ow to Wow

Last year, I heard a laboratory director out of Gillette, WY, talk about her company “From Ow to Wow.” Gillette is a small community, so of course, she was also the local DJ for the roller skating rink. She noticed that the children who fell often stopped crying as soon as they saw the black light reflecting from their shoes, shirts, etc. She wondered how children would react if this was available for blood draws and if it would calm the child enough afterward to reduce the fear of collections.

With this in mind, she created rooms that transform into another world when the black light is on. The room is painted with special paint that comes alive when immersed in special lighting, and it immediately distracts the child from the blood collection. It’s something magical that I never thought I’d see in my lifetime—children actually look forward to returning to the lab!

Bryan Medical Center has two rooms with black light artwork, and they’re already a hit with children (and parents)! Black light room themes include:

  • Under the Sea: This room at Bryan East Campus includes artwork that looks like cowboys in regular light but transforms into scuba divers in the black light along with all kinds of colorful fish and sea animals.
  • Into the Jungle: Our Bryan West Campus room displays a jungle theme with a mom and baby giraffe, a monkey, a leopard and more.

Bryan is proud to be the only hospital in Nebraska—and one of only three hospitals nationwide—with this black light artistry. Special thanks to our generous donors who made these rooms possible through gifts to the Bryan Foundation.

I welcome and encourage you to bring your children to Bryan for blood draws. We’ve had many adults check out our new black light artwork, and while parents are enthralled with it, the real benefit and joy to us is that children LOVE it!

Next time I have to take one of my kids for a blood draw, you can bet it will be at Bryan Medical Center to take advantage of this new, fun feature to help kids not only survive their blood draw, but leave with smiles on their faces.

View the Channel 8 news report to hear from a child and parent about their experiences and see the rooms for yourself!

Christina Nickel

Christina Nickel

Health Expert

Christina Nickel is a Laboratory Manager for Bryan Health.

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