Truth be told, needles are scary. According to a survey conducted by Target, nearly 45 million Americans are afraid of needles. If you type “I have a fear of needles” into Google, you will be flooded with more than 10 million search results. Patients are desperately looking to find ways to overcome their needle phobia, and phlebotomists can help by making them feel comfortable – which starts with the chair in which they sit.
An Odd History
Patient comfort hasn’t always been a priority. Centuries ago, you could get your blood drawn by the barber. Barbers who offered the service advertised via barber poles. The color red meant blood, white was bandages and blue represented blood that hadn’t left the body. Over time, drawing blood moved out of the barbershop into traditional medical practices, but that didn’t mean the end of odd procedures.
Leeches became popular at the turn of the 18th century. They would be attached to patients, and often remain attached until the patients passed out. The practice eventually faded, though leeches are making a comeback in a handful of trauma units across the country. Leeches have a natural anesthetic in their saliva, so they are used to aid patients after plastic surgery. This procedure was performed on a patient in Baltimore when plastic surgery was needed to repair his amputated toes. Holistic clinics are also providing leech therapy (hirudotherapy) for a number of different treatments.
Another method was scarification and cupping. Glass cups were heated and placed on the skin. Skin and blood would be sucked up into the cups, which created a blister. The clinician would then draw blood from the newly formed pressure point. Like leech therapy, cupping has also experienced an unexpected resurgence, as it has been a major talking point in the 2016 Olympic games. Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian in history, hit the pool in Rio with purple dots all over his shoulder, which put a spotlight on cupping once again.
Looking back, many of the standard procedures physicians performed were quite scary, and customer comfort was secondary at best. Thankfully, modern medicine has come a long way. Now phlebotomists go to tech school, not barber school. More importantly, patient comfort counts.
Customer Comfort Gets A Lift
How patients feel is now a high priority for phlebotomists. Many training programs incorporate stress management and communication strategies into the curriculum.
Comfort is especially important for young patients. Bariatric chairs let parents sit with their little ones and comfort them during the procedure. Some clinics also cover kid-sized chair arms with fun designs, such as gumballs or animals, to put young patients at ease.
Custom Comfort Medtek (CCM), a leading manufacturer of phlebotomy chairs, has led the way by designing chairs with the patient and phlebotomist in mind.
“Both the patient and the caregiver should feel comfortable,” said Gary Newton, CCM Plant Manager. “You don’t want the patient to feel like they will fall on their face. They have to feel stable. On the other hand, we recognize the caregiver has to be able to maneuver around the chair, so we also make sure our designs assist caregivers, not burden them.”
CCM continually makes improvements to its blood-draw chairs based on patient and caregiver feedback. “Fifteen years ago we started adding the ability to adjust the height of our blood-draw chairs,” Newton said. “The industry was one size fits all. But we are a manufacturer, which allows us to design our blood-draw chairs based on customers’ needs.”
Ten years ago, bariatric chairs and power lifts were created for the comfort of both the patient and the phlebotomist. The population has changed. People are getting wider, making bariatric chairs essential to helping many patients relax while having their blood drawn.
CCM designed a bariatric chair to provide more hip room. The company recently designed a moveable L-arm that slides in and out, providing an additional 8 inches of room for enhanced customer comfort. The L-arm also can be retrofitted on any existing series 1202 chair, allowing offices and clinics to utilize the innovative L-arm without having to buy brand-new chairs.
Power lift chairs also help phlebotomists who can effortlessly step on a foot pedal to raise or lower their patient. With the patient at the proper height, phlebotomists don’t have to worry about repeatedly bending over to do their job.
Most power lift chairs are ETL (Electrical Testing Labs) certified. ETL certification proves a product has been independently tested and meets North American safety standards. Every quarter, an independent third party inspects the product and procedure for accreditation.
CCM’s entire chair is ETL certified, while other manufacturers only certify the lifting component of their chairs.
Comfort Today For Tomorrow’s Patients
Dr. Brian Dias of the Emory University Department of Psychiatry conducted a study that suggests phobias are memories that have been passed down through genes. His tests proved that mice that were trained to fear the odor of cherry blossoms would pass that fear down to their unborn offspring. Through DNA tests, Dr. Dias found structural changes in the offspring’s brain for the gene responsible for detecting the odor. Mice and humans share nearly identical genes, which is why so many scientists with DNA questions use mice to explore the unknown. Dr. Dias’ study, combined with phlebotomy's interesting history, makes it easy to understand why so many people have a fear of needles today.
Dedication to patient comfort is now stronger than ever. Over the past 15 years, the industry has seen a number of phlebotomy chair innovations. Patients can feel more relaxed when it’s time to have their blood drawn. Less anxiety means less fear and a better blood-drawing experience – for today’s patients, as well as many generations down the line.
About Custom Comfort Medtek
Since 1987, Custom Comfort Medtek has been manufacturing medical furniture designed to fit specific clinical needs. All CCM products are made in the United States, and the majority of raw materials and components are sourced from domestic vendors. Purchasing details are available on the website, CustomComfort.com.
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