Most people do not know that you are an active participant in getting blood drawn or IVs started. The skill differences among those who are poking you include their skill in getting you to do the right thing. My tips:
- drink plenty of fluids and avoid caffeine the day of the draw
- keep your arm warm. I leave it in a sweater until the last minute. I also rub the inside of my elbow while waiting for them to get all their tubes ready etc. When I was getting IV treatments they would wrap my arm in a heating pad
- relax, breathe slowly, try not to tense your mouth, in fact try opening your mouth a little. Make sure your entire arm is relaxed except for your hand if they've asked for a fist. This takes practice. Focus on it.
- support your elbow with your other hand to keep it at a good angle and to stop yourself from jerking backwards as the needle goes in
- keep your eyes open. Closing my eyes slows blood flow (learned this from a chemo nurse and would not have believed it but several experiences have shown it is true for me) Don't look at the puncture site or watch the blood if it upsets you. Focus on something behind the poker -- wall art, a clock, their computer, etc.
- tell them to use the smallest needle. If you have scar tissue from a lot of draws and tests, tell them so
- after they swab with alcohol, ask them to wait a moment until it evaporates. The burning sensation you sometimes feel as the needle goes in is alcohol. It's not necessary to endure that, just some pokers don't wait
- if there is a spot that hurts more or that often fails, tell them not to try that spot
- follow their instructions about making a fist etc
- pay attention every time, and when you have a "good" draw remember all the things you did, then do them next time whether the poker asks you to or not
I learned these tips from good phlebotomists and nurses. They have dramatically reduced the pain and bruising of both blood draws and IV starts. They also reduce the number of failed attempts. I have had a vein spasm shut once the needle is in, and been walked through a relaxation process that got it to open again. Opening both your eyes and mouth is key to this. Another time, when it spasmed shut with a different person, I convinced them to leave the needle and let me try getting it open. It worked and they said "I did not know that was possible." Neither did I until I learned to do it.
Actively work on learning what you can do to make the pain and difficulty less. People will tell you that you have nothing to do with it, but they're wrong. It's your arm, your muscles, your heart rate and blood pressure. You can make it go better.
[will add links if I find some]