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Should I Be a Nurse If I’m Afraid of Needles?

Many people are afraid of needles, and that includes people who work in the health care field. Yes, even nurses.

If you’re looking into going into nursing, but your fear of needles is something that’s holding you back, here’s the answer to the question of whether or not you should still pursue becoming a nurse and how you can overcome your fear of needles.

Is It Common to Be Afraid of Needles?

There isn’t extensive research into how many nurses start off or continue in their careers with a fear of needles. However, there are many articles researching that fear in the general population when it comes to getting preventative care or treatments, and the data says that fear of needles isn’t terribly uncommon.

For adolescents and young adults, the percentage of people who have needle fear ranges from as low as 20% up to 50% with the overall percentage decreasing as people got older. 

In terms of avoiding flu vaccines, another study found that 27% of hospital employees, 18% of long-term care workers, and 8% of hospital workers listed needle fear as a reason for avoidance. 

There’s comfort in knowing that you’re not alone in your fear and that other people like you are still working in the health care field.

Should I Become a Nurse if I’m Afraid of Needles?

There’s really no right or wrong answer to this question. If the only thing holding you back from nursing is your fear of needles, then ask yourself where this fear comes from.

For some nurses, they may be carrying over their fear of needles from childhood. Other nurses are nervous of accidental needlesticks that might lead to them getting an infection or disease, while others are worried about messing up a stick and causing unnecessary pain to a patient. 

Once you know the reason (or reasons, if there’s more than one) behind your fear, then it’s much easier to find ways to cope and help yourself learn to work with or around it.

You should also ask yourself this question — how well have you handled other fears in your life? We all have things that give us anxiety, whether that’s calling a stranger on the phone or asking for directions. Part of life is learning how to keep those fears and anxieties from interrupting our lives or keeping us from doing what we need or want to do.

In nursing school, you’ll learn to perform many tasks, including many procedures that involve needles, like starting IVs or giving injections. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to practice both on mannequins or stand-ins as well as on real people, all under the guidance of instructors or other licensed professionals.

Additionally, if you’ve never used a needle on someone else before, you may find that if the needle isn’t going into you, you aren’t as scared. It’s very common for nurses to feel squeamish when they’re on the receiving end of a needle and yet feel perfectly fine when they’re on the giving end. 

If you want to know for sure before committing to a nursing program, you can take a phlebotomy training course to get a real feel and some extra experience and practice using needles.

So the short answer to this question is, yes — if you want to become a nurse, but you’re afraid of needles, don’t let that fear hold you back. 

How to Get Over Your Fear

As you prepare to go through nursing school and begin working with needles, there are many methods and techniques you can use to help overcome your needle fear:

  • Practice. It builds confidence, and the more confident you feel handling a needle, the less you’re likely to feel afraid. You can practice on your fellow students during clinicals or on fruit, like bananas or oranges, which are commonly used to train phlebotomists, to help build up your confidence before taking a shot at using a needle on real patients. 
  • Act confident and be positive. Not only does that put your patients at ease, but it also helps train your brain to associate the procedure with confidence and positivity. 
  • Remind yourself that the reason for using the needle is to benefit the patient. Perhaps it will help them manage their pain or symptoms of their disease, or perhaps it will even save their life. You may be causing discomfort and pain now, but the benefit will often more than make up for that momentary discomfort in the long run.
  • Remember that fear isn’t always a bad thing. In some cases, you’re simply empathizing with your patients, and that’s an amazing and important skill for nurses to have. 
  • Understand that if there’s one guarantee in nursing life, it’s that you’ll sometimes make mistakes. Perhaps you’ll miss the vein, or your technique in that particular stick wasn’t too great and caused the patient pain. Do all the preparation you can beforehand to have the knowledge and technique you need to succeed, and then when mistakes like this happen, learn from them and move on.
  • When you’re ready to enter the nursing field as a trained nurse, you’ll have a wide variety of jobs, specialties, and facilities to choose from. There are nursing jobs out there where you’ll rarely need to use needles.
  • Don’t forget that you’re not alone. Some people are just better at hiding their fear than others are.

For the majority of nurses with needle fear or phobia, the longer they work in the nursing field with needles, the less that fear will affect them. If you feel that nursing is the career for you, don’t let a fear of needles keep you from pursuing it. The world needs more nurses who are willing to admit their fears and put in the work to confront and change them around. 

Michelle Paul

Michelle Paul is an RN Content Specialist at Clipboard Health. She has worked with a variety of patient demographics, ranging from young adults in foreign countries, to elderly residents in skilled nursing facilities, to healthy blood donors in her community. Her experience in content creation gives her a unique perspective on communication within the healthcare field.

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