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Blood Draws for Children: Keep Calm and Stay S.A.F.E.

Jun 30, 2020
Baby sitting on mom's lap while getting their blood drawn by a nurse

The idea of getting blood drawn can be scary and it is not unusual for children to cry or be a little resistant during their visit to the lab. Some children become very stressed by their blood draw and their anxiety can lead to physically challenging behaviors, resulting in harm to themselves or others.

To help with this, Nationwide Children's Hospital Laboratory Services created the S.A.F.E. (Safe Area for Everyone) Program. The intent of the program is to create a safe, calm, and controlled environment for children and families during a blood draw. This unique program offers many benefits for children who qualify for, and enroll in, this service.

Who May Qualify for the Program?

The S.A.F.E. Program coordinator gets information about the patient with help from the child’s family or a medical professional. This helps the lab team learn about the child’s communication abilities, potential challenges, possible triggers, sensory needs, and likes/dislikes. For enrolled patients, this information is shared with lab staff to help develop the best approach to the blood draw.

Scheduled Appointments

For enrolled patients, a S.A.F.E. blood draw appointment is scheduled Monday through Friday, between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., at one of six Central Ohio Nationwide Children’s lab sites. Patients are pre-registered for their visit, helping to reduce their wait time and those anxious moments in the waiting room. Lab orders are provided before the appointment so that staff can get everything ready that is needed for the blood collection. If a wait can’t be helped, other areas are available so the patient will have a quiet and calm wait.     

Helpful Tools

Stories are available on the S.A.F.E. Program website. These stories read like a picture book and show each step in the blood draw process, from arriving to the lab to completing the collection. Each S.A.F.E. Program location also has a board with pictures of each blood draw step attached to it. This tool is helpful for children who need a visual schedule or checklist. As each step of the blood draw is completed, the picture of the step is removed from the board. The use of social stories and story boards help increase the patient’s understanding about what will happen during their visit. This can help reduce anxiety and lead to positive outcomes.

Customer Feedback

For some patients, the program has been quite helpful. This is one family’s story:

“. . . we signed [our son] up for the S.A.F.E. Program at the lab . . . they have his blankets ready and juice and he gets a scheduled time, which really helped . . . we talked about it every day a little bit and would tell him how many days he had. He climbed up on the table . . . didn't cry at all, held his arm out and didn't get upset at all... if you know anyone who needs that program, I would tell them to call the lab. It's amazing and works so much better for him . . .”

For more information about the S.A.F.E. Program, please call 614-722-1364 and leave a voicemail for the coordinator. You may also email the coordinator at LabSAFEProgram@NationwideChildrens.org.

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Jennifer Locker
Laboratory Services

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.