6 Tips to Make the Most of Your Lab Visits

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As a lupus patient, you get your blood tested regularly. For me, regularly means once every four weeks. (That’s how often I see my rheumatologist as well.) A few months ago, my left arm (my draw arm) was really hurting. I couldn’t fully extend my arm even if I tried to do it through the pain. I blamed the frequent blood draws. I asked my rheumie about them. He said it was the lupus not the draws. The pain eventually went away, but the regular blood draws didn’t. He was right; it was the lupus.

Today, I am at the lab early along with a lobby full of other hungry people. We are all here early because we had to fast to do our lab work today. The sooner you get your lab work done the sooner you can eat. Mornings are usually a busy time for labs because of this reason. There are quite a few people here today, so there is a wait. However, I did make a 7:30 a.m. appointment. My fast was a 12-hour fast—water is allowed. But, it has now turned into a 12 and a half hour fast. I have been waiting for 30 minutes past my appointment time. The hungry people start getting irritable. The office staff and technicians have to then deal with the irritable people. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to upset the person who is going to be jabbing me with a needle. But I guess some people are only thinking with their stomachs. Whether you’re fasting or not, you just never know what kind of day it’s going to be at the lab. So why not make the most of a necessary evil visit?

Here are some tips to help make your lab visits as comfortable and stress-free as possible.

  1. Make an appointment. Before my lupus crisis, I would just walk-in for my blood draws. It was hit and miss, but more often than not, I would have to wait a while. One time it was over an hour and a half—busy day. But if I can avoid that sort of wait, I will. Plus, I am sure it is psychological but I just associate a packed waiting room with germs. I just don’t want to put my body through the wait and possible exposure. So if your lab allows appointments, make one. You will more often than not be seen in a timely manner.
  2. Have your paperwork ready to go. For some reason, my doctor’s office does not fill in my bio info on my lab request sheet. I learned this after having to stand at the check in desk while relaying my birthday, address, etc. to the receptionist. My rheumie also carbon copies my lab results to my primary physician. And for some reason, the lab needs my primary’s contact information each time. So now I just write it on the lab sheet. It saves time.
  3. Nourish and hydrate. If you don’t need to fast for your draw, be sure to eat a nourishing meal before going to the lab. I went to the labs in the afternoon while on errands, and I hadn’t had lunch yet. I almost passed out while they were drawing my blood. And be sure to drink plenty of water the day before your draw as well as the day of; your veins need the hydration and will be nice a plump and visible for your phlebotomist. And since you already looked over your paperwork, you know whether or not you are having a urine analysis done. If you are, drink up on water. And don’t make the mistake I have made more than once and empty your bladder at home before heading out. If you are fasting, bring along a healthy snack for after the draw.
  4.  Arrive early. I know one change that I have had to make with lupus is being ready about half an hour earlier than before. The main reason for this is to cut back on stress. And I don’t do much as far as getting ready when I have to go to labs, so getting there early shouldn’t be a problem. Try to arrive at least 10 minutes before your appointment. I find that this allows for the staff to collect your paperwork in a timely manner. And if you are ready to give a urine sample, they are usually ready to accommodate you for that even if they aren’t quite ready to take you for your blood sample.
  5. Get to know your lab staff. Even though getting blood drawn becomes routine for us, it still is a pretty intimate deed. They are drawing your life source from you. If they are touching me and my blood, I want to at the very least get to know these people’s names. I try to make a point to learn one staff member’s name on each visit until I have them all committed to memory. After all, they know my name, my address, my birthdate, my doctors’ information, etc. There is also a customer service element to these exchanges. As bad as I am feeling on certain days when I go to the lab, I try my very best to smile through the pain as they check me in. I sometimes get double takes by the staff members when they see me smile as if I was the first person to smile at them that day. I don’t think it is my imagination when I say there have been times when I am able to get in and out of the lab faster than others.
  6. Bring something to do. You might waiting for what is hopefully a short time. So bring a book or magazine just in case your wait is longer than expected. I am not a big fan of rifling through the magazines in waiting rooms—germ fest.

What do you do to make the most (dare I say fun?) out of your trips to the lab? Do you have any tips to make your visit more efficient or more enjoyable? Have you made any mistakes we can learn from? Thanks for sharing!

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