Dealing with needlephobic patients


patient-needle-fear-PhotoxpressI started this thread in the forum a few months ago and I got a lot of interesting comments from members. So, I thought I’d make an article about it.

But first, what is ‘needlephobia’? According to Google, Needlephobia  can be defined as a fear of sharp objects such as pins or needles.

Believe it or not, it is now recognised by doctors as a very real condition.

Needlephobia mostly affects children but, if left unaddressed, can prevail well into adult life. I’m pretty sure you have seen it in the movies where big blokes faint at the sight of the dreaded ‘needle’. That’s the other version of the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ story. But, being nurses, it’s part of our everyday job to give needles to our patients.

For the most part it, it is for treatment that we give needles but if you can cannulate like me that is another thing! It becomes difficult when we have to deal with the so-called ‘needlephobics’.

Not to exclude myself, I must admit I also dread needles. When I  was learning how to prepare and give subcut heparin, I have to say I get nervous all the time not so much with injecting the needle to the fatty tissue of my patients but to cut open those heparin ampoules. I used to cut my fingers all the time and they really hurt! So, I made it a habit to wrap alcowipe to break the ampoules open. Oh, did I mention about the BSL lancet. I am needlephobic with that and I don’t know why?

Now back to being the nurse, let me share my stories with needlephobic patients I have encountered. There was this one female adult patient where I have to get our nurse in-charge to give it whilst the patients almost cut the circulation on my arm from squeezing it too hard. Mind you, it’s only heparin injection. Then, I had another female patient with past history of IV drug use nearly fainted on me whilst inserting a canulla for a booked endoscopy. Howe weird! I should have let her do it instead.

Then, there was a time when I encountered this elderly woman screaming out loud. And, the tip of the needle hasn’t even landed on her skin yet!

So how to avoid this?

Just like my endoscopy colleagues Katherine and Myra said when they were patiently teaching an eager me how to canullate in the unit. They say, always make the patient comfortable. Ask questions if he/she had problems with putting canullas before. They would usually tell you which veins worked for them in the past. Give reassurance and sidetracking nervous patients does work wonders. They may not even feel that the needle is already in. You would both be surprised! Same is true with giving SC or IM injections. Explain the procedure first. Ask if they have any questions. Make them as comfortable and relax as possible and provide lots of reassurance. With kids, a parent beside them may give them a sense of security.

What about you? Do you have any other tips and strategies to help your patients be more comfortable with the needle?

Image source: fotosergio (via


  1. My needlephobia was cured by 1 exellent venipuncturist I used to have really bad needlephobia and when I became pregnant with my 1st daughter the thought of having to have bloods taken each trimester once if not twice was a really frightening thought. I would walk in sweating, heart pounding, scared to the point of almost passing out. This 1 lady cured my fears and what she did was very simple. Most needlephobics are the way they are because of a horrific past experience as was mine. She saw that I was hyperventilating, she told me to relax, breath deep and look the other way. Whilst she was preparing all the viles etc she would not let me watch and she was just chit chatting about life, work, kids. She put the tornequet on ( I started to hyperventilate again) she calmed me down and then just inserted the butterfly, there was no warning. I think when people tell you ” just a little prick/sting/etc” it hurts more. You clench really tight fears flood your brain. The same when you are getting injections. When ever I can I get injections in my buttock as opposed to my arm ( for the simple reason that I can’t see anything) When I had to get a rubella booster after my daughter was born, I told the midwife I was needlephobic, asked if I could have it in my buttock and not to tell me whaen she was going to give it. Before I could finish my sentence she had given it already, and I was out the door.
    The next time you are giving a needle to someone who is hyperventilating, pale, and sweating, try getting them to look away, make gerneral chit chat and don’t tell them to brace themselves just give it whilst you are chatting, you may just cure them 🙂

  2. needlephobia overcome So great to read other ‘posts’ on this. Yep! I had a Pt who was ‘very-hung-up’ on jabs of any types. I spent a night shift in Paeds Ward, EDUCATION for me; OUTCOME!!
    I had the Pt in another Ward [who I mentioned] request for the ‘white paste’ used in Paeds Wards; it goes onto the skin area under a Tegaderm, 15min latter you can overcome all fear of:- ‘the tiny prick’ or ‘pain’. After bloods were taken the Pt felt so great, told me more nurses should have informed her in the past.
    Yes .. made it better for her, but she now has no fear of needles, nore do her children aged 17-22 yrs of age!
    This system can be introduced on all Wards..cream is kept in the man!!
    Use it and to hell if the clinician tells you it takes too much time..we are there for the comfort of the Pts who trust us as NSWNA Members
    Hope this ‘tip’ helps others.


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