Coping with anxiety and discomfort before undergoing laboratory tests
Nobody particularly enjoys having blood drawn for a laboratory test.Nevertheless, a laboratory test conducted on a sample collected from one’s body can give the healthcare provider important information that can help improve or maintain one’s health. A healthcare practitioner uses lab tests for a variety of reasons, including screening for and diagnosing conditions and to guide treatment and determine prognosis.
Sometimes, undergoing an unfamiliar medical procedure can turn out to be a tense, upsetting, or even a harrowing experience. If undergoing medical tests makes one anxious, embarrassed, or fearful, just know that there are ways to make the sample collection experience less stressful.
KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT
Undergoing an unfamiliar medical procedure can be stressful when one’s experience does not match the expectations. Knowing what will happen is a good way to maintain calm.
Understanding why a lab test has been advised can improve your attitude and be mentally prepared for the test. Doing so also helps you feel more relaxed and in control of the situation. Ask your healthcare practitioner to explain the reasons for your test, how the test will be conducted, and what he or she expects to learn from it. Here are some sample questions one may ask:
· Why is this test need to be done? How could it change the course of my care?
· What do I need to know or do before the test?
· Do I need to stop my medications on the day the test is scheduled?
· What happens during and after the test?
· How much will the test hurt or be an inconvenience? What are its risks?
· How long will the test take? When will results be available?
· Where do I need to go to take the test? Is there a “good” time to schedule the test?
· What are normal results? What do abnormal results mean?
· What factors may affect the results?
· What course of action may be next, after the test?
Your healthcare provider is the best person to look to for answers to these questions since he or she will be most familiar with your situation. Of course, time constraints, your comfort in asking questions, and simply forgetting to ask a certain question sometimes compel patients to look elsewhere for this information. Fortunately, there are other reliable sources to turn to for additional information.
The medical laboratory scientist, technician, or phlebotomist can answer questions about how the sample is collected. This person may not, however, have the information needed to fully answer your questions about what the test is for, how results are interpreted, and what happens next. Because many patients ask these questions during the sampling procedure, some facilities have books or pamphlets on medical testing available as a resource to staff and patients so do not hesitate to ask about the resources available to you.
Other information sourcesare available online, as are a number of free services. Through these sites, you can obtain answers to your lab test-related questions from laboratory professionals.
TRY RELAXATION TECHNIQUES
Knowing a few simple relaxation and focusing techniques can help you avoid tensing your muscles or becoming faint during any difficult medical procedure. Although the medical staff performing these procedures are usually good at making small talk and creating distractions that take your mind off your discomfort, you can also soothe yourself or an anxious patient with the following techniques. If you are anxious about lab tests and need them frequently, you will find it helpful to practice these skills at home to make them even more effective when you need them.
Breathe — Take deep breaths and slowly exhale. This simple technique can sometimes do wonders.
Relax Your Muscles — Try to consciously relax your muscles. Let them feel loose.
Focus — Find a focal point to look at or envision a pleasing image.
Count — Count slowly and silently to ten.
Talk — Chat with someone in the room. The distraction can relax you.
Anyone who suffers from high anxiety about medical tests should talk with a healthcare practitioner. The healthcare provider may recommend a mental health professional who can help you with these feelings, especially if your anxiety is severe or prevents you from obtaining treatment, or the practitioner may prescribe medicine to help you relax.
COMMUNICATE YOUR NEEDS
Many of the laboratory tests done today are less invasive and less uncomfortable, and a variety of specimen collection equipment has also been designed with patient comfort in mind.
Don’t hesitate to request a modification or a different approach that better suits your needs. For example, if you have felt light-headed or have fainted previously while having your blood drawn, ask to be allowed to lie down for the procedure. You can expect that the health professionals responsible for collecting the sample have been trained to be sensitive to the needs of apprehensive patients and people with special needs. They have some proven strategies to help you and are usually willing to listen to you to determine what will work best in a situation.
Understanding what will happen, communicating your needs to the health professionals assisting you, and employing simple relaxation techniques will help you be most comfortable and prepared for a lab test.
(The writer is Consultant Pathologist, BABINA Diagnostics, Imphal)