1. Papa, AnnMarie DNP, RN, CEN, NE-BC, FAEN, FAAN

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When the tables are turned, needle sticks bring out the reluctant 4-year-old even in the most experienced healthcare professionals. Similar to hospitals throughout the nation, our employees are encouraged to receive flu shots. Even though we all know the benefits of the vaccine, many of these adults cower like scared children when they know the needle is coming. People procrastinate or even avoid the shots because of fear of the needle.

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A couple of years ago, we started using instant topical anesthetics before administering shots at some hospitals and free-standing flu administration sites. We didn't have to call crowd control at the employee flu shot clinic, but the topical anesthetics did make a difference. People came in earlier in the season, and many asked for "the stuff" that numbed their skin before the needle stick. At many sites, this meant a more successful flu vaccination campaign. Pain-the anticipation of it, the perception of it, and the reality of it-is enough to cause most patients some level of anxiety and distress. Instant topical anesthetics are one of a nurse's best tools to mitigate pain, which, in turn, results in a better experience for patients and greater satisfaction for nurses.


Communication is the key to eliminating medical errors

Poor nurse-patient communication is one of the major causes of medical errors. One of the biggest benefits of alleviating pain is that it can enhance your patient safety performance. Obviously, it's nearly impossible for a patient to communicate well if he or she is upset or cringing in pain.


It's important to recognize that instant topical anesthetics can help facilitate communication regarding pain management. The following is an example of how to handle pain management.


* The nurse should acknowledge the patient's feelings. Convey that you understand the patient is experiencing pain or is nervous about a procedure. In my experience, even with patients facing treatment for serious illnesses, people are often more afraid of a needle stick or I.V. start than the treatment itself.


* Assure the patient he or she isn't alone. Many patients are terrified and in agony when they come to an ED. It goes a long way when a nurse shows compassion and lets patients know that they're experiencing a common reaction to pain and the unknown.


* Partner with the patient by initiating conversation. The patient wants you to diminish the pain and you have the tools to help. Explain that an instant topical anesthetic will immediately lessen the pain by temporarily numbing the top layer of skin.


* Ensure the patient understands that the instant topical anesthetic is safe to use.



Knowledge is power. By taking the time to educate your patient about instant topical anesthetic and the benefit of using it in his or her case, you've given your patient a sense of control. That, in turn, relieves patient anxiety and makes your job easier.


As nurses, we want to offer our patients compassionate care-that's why we went into this profession. No one likes inflicting pain, whether it's needle sticks, immunizations, or debriding wounds, even though it's for the greater good. Instant topical anesthetics are a simple way to successfully complete a necessary procedure without causing unnecessary pain. If you can help the patient feel like a partner in his or her own treatment by eliminating the pain and opening up the lines of communication, that's a huge accomplishment. As the saying goes, perception is reality. And when patients perceive that you care about helping them manage their pain, the reality is a successful patient-caregiver relationship. Feeling respected allows patients to relax and focus on getting well instead of worrying about the care they're receiving.


Great for all ages

Topical anesthetics are a big hit among pediatric patients, too. Children often become anxious, agitated, combative, and uncooperative due to pain or fear of pain during needle sticks and invasive procedures. Most kids learn early to fear the needle. With instant topical anesthetics, it's easy to address that fear before it becomes a problem. Although young patients often don't have the intellectual means to play a role in their own pain management, most are capable of expressing fear and responding to caregivers who can help make them more comfortable in a scary situation. The numbing effect of a topical anesthetic works to pediatric caregivers' advantage. The nurse works her magic, the pain is gone instantaneously, and the child is calm and ready for treatment. Of course, parents, who feel their little one's pain tenfold, are thrilled.


Benefits to nurses

Anything that helps nurses gain patients' trust is a good thing. If a nurse tells a patient that he or she can help decrease pain instantly and is able to follow through successfully, a relationship of trust is established; one where we can communicate and partner in their care.


When it comes to Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) scores, every care provider knows pain management can mean the difference between a glowing and subpar report. As the face of the facility to our patients, nurses are responsible for doing everything we can to manage pain and provide a positive experience. When partnering with patients who require pain management, have a conversation about alleviating pain and then provide instant relief. It goes a long way in how patients perceive their level of pain management and overall experience.


It's simple: We can reduce pain

The patient is always our chief concern, but weighing cost benefits is also part of a nurse manager's job. The payoff for using instant topical anesthetics is significant when considering the costs associated with failed I.V. starts and opening up new kits, the decrease in time nurses spend calming anxious patients, and the increase in patient satisfaction, which translates into higher HCAHPS scores.


As frontline nurses or managers, we have a calling, as well as an obligation, to our patients to provide relief and compassionately reduce distress whenever possible. We can reduce pain through the use of instant topical anesthetics. It isn't complicated and it works. Nervous patients, anxious parents, and your healthcare facility will thank you.