A ‘FAAIRI’s touch to ease children’s fear of needles

Vaccinations, blood tests, or IVs – it’s fair to say that no child likes a needle. So, when it comes to the jab, a light touch and a caring approach is incredibly welcomed – both by the child and the parent.

Now, world-first research from the University of South Australia shows that while many children suffer distress, new ultrasound-guided techniques could provide much-needed reprieve.

Offered by the Fast Access and Advice for Intravenous Routes with Imaging (FAAIRI) service by the SA Medical Imaging (SAMI2) service Nurses at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital (WCH), the ultrasound techniques ensure needles and cannula are inserted in the ‘right line, first time’, ensuring optimal care for children with chronic disease.

Conducted in partnership with SAMI and the WCH Network, the UniSA study explored the experiences of children who needed regular needle treatments, particularly those who had failed cannulation attempts due to ‘difficult venous access’ (DVA).

Researchers found that children with DVA experienced significant distress before (as insomnia, anxiety), during (fear or terror) and after their needle experience (in some instances psychological distress).

It also noted that many clinicians were too ‘job focussed’, getting on with the practicalities of readying an IV without properly considering the child and their care. Behaviours such as failing to introduce themselves, taking a long time to prepare, and rattling tools all aggravated a child’s stress.

Lead researcher, Dr Rebecca Sharp from UniSA’s Rosemary Bryant AO Research Centre, says the research highlights an acute need to change clinical practice.

“Intravenous cannulas (IVs) are one of the most common invasive hospital procedures for paediatric patients. But while these are a routine part of everyday healthcare, many children describe IVs as one of the most painful procedures in hospital,” Dr Sharp says.

“Up to 50% of children are highly distressed during these procedures, and 25% panic to the point where they often need to be held down.

UniSA researcher and Paediatric Vascular Access Nurse Consultant, Catherine Baring, says ultrasound technologies have changed the landscape for children with DVA.

“By using ultrasound technology, we can accurately guide the cannula in, ensuring we get it right, first time. Ultrasound allows us to see exactly where the vein is and to quickly insert a needle with as little discomfort as possible.”“We pride ourselves on patient-focussed care.

“We listen to children, engage their families, and explain what we are going to do,” Baring says.

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