A day in the life of an Occupational Therapist. Managing needle anxiety.

A day in the life of an Occupational Therapist. Managing needle anxiety.

I’m getting my flu jab today. I’m a bit anxious about needles having fainted once when I was a kid. I didn’t even feel the needle that day and still fainted afterwards. Here are the Occupational Therapy strategies I use to make it much easier these days. 

  1. Eat and drink beforehand. Don’t get jabbed on an empty stomach so you don’t feel light headed before you even turn up
  2. Get someone else to drive you to the appointment where possible. Driving home if feeling faint after a needle is not a good idea for obvious reasons.
  3. Practice deep breathing or distraction from thinking about the needle in the waiting room.
  4. Ask to lie down for the needle, especially for blood tests. Lie down well before the needle and take your time before getting back up. When you do get up, start with sitting, then standing, then walking, to check you are feeling ok at each point. The treatment coach is nearby if you need to lie back down that way.
  5. Look away. Don’t watch the nurse getting the needle ready or look at it afterwards (this is coming from a mum who actually has to administer needles regularly to a loved one eek).
  6. Consciously relax your muscles in your body, especially your arm, so there’s less resistance to the needle going in which presumably hurts less that way. Accept holding something in your hand if the nurses provide that – it turns out it distracts your focus from where the needle is going, to what you’re holding. 
  7. Continue deep breathing, have a chat in a different topic (follow the nurses lead with chatter) and visualise a favourite relaxing place like the beach. What can you hear, see, smell, taste, touch from that scene.
  8. Sit in the wait-room for as long as you need to afterwards. 
  9. The best bit. Treat yourself to a rewarding snack or meal afterwards. You deserve it and helps with keeping the blood sugar up.


After writing this the GP advised I needed to get a blood test too. So I got to practice what I preach with 2 needles in one day lol. If you are anxious about needles, don’t be afraid to assert that you want an experienced pathology staff member, not a student on placement. You are not obligated to say yes. As much as I love educating students, leave that for the needle agnostic patients. The nurse advised today that lying down keeps blood pressure steady, whereas it drops when sitting, as the body can go into ‘shock’ when getting a needle sitting up. 


Leanne Hopkins is an Occupational Therapist at Succeed Healthcare Solutions and is passionate about creating a world where families thrive. 


Please note this is not medical advice – just tips on the day of the life of an OT. For more specific advice tailored to your needs, please see a health professional. If you or someone you know needs help facing fears in a practical and functional way, please contact us and arrange a free 15-minute Discovery Interview to see how we can assist.