Play specialist workshops go virtual
Having a blood sample taken can be traumatic enough for adults, but for children it can be doubly stressful, sometimes leading to a lifetime of anxiety about needles and visiting hospitals.
Thanks to NNUH play specialists this could be a thing of the past as they have created a virtual workshop to help our phlebotomists take blood samples in a much more child-friendly way.
Phlebotomists at the NNUH had already benefited from face to face sessions exploring distraction tactics, measures to put children at ease and creating an environment of trust, relaxation and openness. Colleagues from the North Norfolk Primary Care Phlebotomy Service, which operates out of Cromer Medical Practice, reached out for a similar workshop but the pandemic made that impossible.
This was a new service, set up in October 2020, adding child phlebotomy services to the well-established adult service. It meant that the team needed specialist training to be able to take blood tests from children before they could offer the service to children. In the meantime Cromer Hospital has continued to support by offering this service to all children in the two-16 age group.
Emma Smith, NNPC Clinical Quality Nurse Lead and Service Lead for NNPC phlebotomy Service, said: “Specialist training for phlebotomy staff can help a child having their blood taken a much better experience – not only for the child but the parent and the phlebotomist too. This is where Alice and phlebotomy team manager Sally Bailey have been of such great support in getting this training in place. It has been great for NNPC and NNUH to work together on this education and training process, for the benefit of the children and their parents.”
Under the leadership of Paediatric Practice Development Nurse Alice Cook, play specialists Leanne Ditch, Jade White and Katie Collis created a virtual workshop during which colleagues learn more about helping children understand what is happening, so they can be more in control, distracting them as the needle goes in and treating the family as a whole rather than focusing on one family member.
So far two sessions have been held with plans to hold more on a more regular basis as more phlebotomists join the trust.
Alice and her team showed phlebotomists that by slowing down the process and taking more time with the family, they were actually able to save time in the long run as they did not have to help calm anxious patients.
Alice said: “The phlebotomy team are incredibly skilled
at what they do and in running a super-efficient service. With children they recognised there was a need to do things differently and reached out to us for help. “
She added: “Sometimes it is simple things like using an ordinary chair so the child can sit on their parent’s lap and feel safe.”
Play specialist Jade added: “For me it is about creating an environment which is truthful, respectful to all parties and helping children relax, understand what they are going to experience such as a scratch or the cold sensation of the freeze spray.
“Also at the end talk to them on how it was and let them play for a few minutes so they leave feeling clam and happy. It is what they will remember.”
During sessions attendees will discuss latest thinking and papers from the British Psychological Association. Documents and specialist YouTube videos are sent to attendees for further learning.
Long-term Alice would like to extend this virtual workshop to GPs and the wider health community. She said: “Doing this virtually has opened up a whole new world to us. A year ago I didn’t even know Microsoft Teams existed. Now it has meant we can roll out these sessions to phlebotomists in Cromer and it has been great to meet them. We never normally would. Also, by doing it virtually it means we could offer this further afield as well – perhaps to GP surgeries where they offer blood tests.
“Another benefit is by doing this as well it frees up our specialists to look after children with more severe forms of anxiety such as children with autism, learning difficulties or aspects of Asperger’s Syndrome.”