Living Retired — ‘Fearing Needles Is Needless’
Living Retired — ‘Fearing Needles Is Needless’
By Gary Chalk.
I never enjoy getting needles. There I said it.
And I am not alone. Researchers at the University of Michigan cite that approximately 30% of adults say they are concerned when it comes to having needles — everything from mild anxiety to a phobia that even prevent them from seeking out medical care.
Over the past few years having had all my Covid vaccinations, Covid boosters, flu shots, and blood work for my annual physical I have endured having my share of jabs in my arm.
I did my own research and discovered a 2-step strategy to help relieve the anxiety people have when they have a needle, which may help you.
The first step is to avoid unnecessary eye contact with the person who is about to jab you in your arm. Look in the opposite direction — down at your feet, outside a window, even close your eyes. The nurse holding the needle may think you are being rude but what the heck.
The second step is to start a friendly conversation with the needle-giver. Chatting, while avoiding looking at them, can create a sense of calmness. Hopefully, before you can say ‘needles get under your skin’ you roll your sleeve back up and you are on your way.
Two weeks ago, I tried this approach when I went to my doctor’s office for my flu shot. Here is what happened…
I was sitting in the waiting room when a nurse appeared in the doorway. “Hi Gary, come on in.” I could see she already had the needle in her hand.
“That’s me!” I got out of the chair and followed her towards the examination room. I recalled Step 1: avoid eye contact with the nurse, so I looked in the opposite direction. That is when it happened…
“Oops Gary, be careful! You just walked into the reception desk and fell against the Xerox machine. I will get a bandage to stop the bleeding.” Other nurses ran over — not to help me, but to pick up file folders of patient charts scattered all across the floor.
“Gary, just come in this room here and have a seat. NO! NO! The room is over here!”
The nurse held me by my arm as she escorted me to the room and sat me down on the stool. I continued Step 1: avoiding eye contact with the nurse, while simultaneously launching into Step 2: creating a conversation. I guess I was nervous because I talked ad nauseam!
“Too bad you have to be inside working today because it is a beautiful day. Do you think it will be a bad winter this year? Which reminds me I still haven’t put the snow tires on my car. For that matter I haven’t put them on Jan’s car either. Jan is my wife. Do you have snow tires? Do you have a car? My father taught me how to drive.”
The nurse sat patiently — at least I assume she did, because I had my eyes closed — until she politely interrupted me, “Gary, in order for me to give you the flu shot you need to roll up your shirt sleeve.”
I stumbled trying to undo the damn button on the shirt cuff, this time looking out the open door watching other staff down on all fours still picking up patient charts from the floor. I continued chatting…
“I am surprised doctor’s offices still have so much paperwork. I thought more would be on computers. But computers always have issues don’t they? And now that I am retired I don’t have the luxury of calling the IT department when I screw up. I upgraded to Windows 10 recently. Do you have Windows 10? We installed energy-efficient windows in our house. Do you have a house?”
By now the nurse knew she had a legitimate basket case on her hands — and a needle in her hand.
She interrupted me again, this time to ask the usual questions before nurses are allowed to stab a patient’s arm. “What is your date of birth, Gary? No changes in your health status?” She rubbed cotton batten on my arm. I continue blabbing away. I cranked my head even further away from her — I am now facing the doctors framed medical certificates on the wall.
“I see my doctor graduated from medical school in Hamilton. Where did you study nursing? Did you study nursing? Oh I didn’t mean it that way. Why did you want to become a nurse? Did you play nurse growing up? I didn’t want to do anything but be a radio announcer. I enjoyed talking on the radio. Did you ever listen to me on the radio? Oh, I am sure you weren’t even born back when I was talking on the radio. Do you even know what a radio is?”
By this time, I was convinced the nurse was considering writing something in my medical chart, although she didn’t say. I shifted my eyes again, to the examination table against the wall — the table I climb onto for my prostate exam. All I can think of is that damn roll of paper that shreds into pieces and sticks all over me I get up.
Before I could continue yakking she said, “Okay, Gary, please hold this bandage on your arm for me. NO! That is my arm. Your arm is over here.”
Just like that it was over! I didn’t feel a thing. Although the nurse probably felt better seeing me leave.
Walking out of the examination room I thanked the nurse. “It was nice talking with you. I enjoyed our conversation.”