Ask Kara RDH: Anxiety Giving Local Anesthetic

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Please help me and tell me I am not alone… am I alone? I have been a hygienist for three years. However, my anxiety over giving injections has not gotten any better. I get shaky and feel like my fear is written all over my face. I am the only hygienist who is licensed to give injections in my office. I think my boss knows my fear exists and never asks me to anesthetize his patients or the other hygienist’s patients. I am so embarrassed by my anxiety, it makes me want to throw up. I lose sleep over an SRP the night before! I feel I’m a good hygienist, but this demon has got the best of me, and makes me want to leave my job. Am I alone?

You are not alone in having anxiety about giving injections! My best advice is not to shy away from giving injections because you are nervous. In fact, you should do the opposite and give as many as you can. The more you do it, the more comfortable you will feel. It’s like hygiene school; I bet you didn’t feel ready to see “real” patients. However, even though at first it may have felt like you were thrown to the wolves, the outcome actually made you learn even faster and become more comfortable and confident.

I think being honest and telling your doctor you’d like to “become more comfortable giving local anesthetic” would be in your favor. If you have time in your schedule, and if it’s okay with your doctor, anesthetize your doctor’s patients for practice. Even peek over your doctor’s shoulder when he anesthetizes. Remember your schooling and don’t hesitate to look through your anesthesia book, especially if it came with a DVD. Check out YouTube for injection techniques. If your co-workers wouldn’t mind helping you face your fear, and if your doctor is okay with being there for supervision purposes, practice on them. Though it may seem embarrassing and might give you anxiety in itself, have your doctor watch you practice giving injections so he can give you tips. When practicing, you don’t have to deposit anesthetic, just go to the deposition point and pull out, as you did in hygiene school.

Again, you aren’t alone. Like you, I was not overly excited about giving injections at first. By not overly excited I mean, when I have my blood drawn, I have been known to pass out, so I can relate to your anxiety. Surprise! That’s embarrassing! However, the first permanent office I worked in after attending hygiene school was a very high-volume office; the doctor saw on average 50-70 patients per day (don’t get me started on how unethical this sounds – I’m not there anymore!). I anesthetized many patients for him; upwards of 20 of his patients per day, multiple injections per patient, on top of my own SRP patients. Needless to say, I am extremely comfortable giving injections now! Looking back, being thrown in and forced to do several injections per day was the best thing for me in the long run, even though it didn’t feel like it right at first. While that office wasn’t the best fit for me, the experience was priceless.

My point here is practice will make you comfortable, I say this from first-hand experience! Don’t leave your job over your fear of injections because someday you will have to face it, and it’s best to get it over with so you can move on. Facing your fear head-on is sometimes the best way to conquer it. Be confident in your skills and practice; you got this!

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SEE ALSO: VIDEO: Maxillary Anesthesia Injection Techniques

DON’T MISS: VIDEO: Mandibular Anesthesia Injection Techniques

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Kara Vavrosky, RDHEP
Kara Vavrosky, RDHEP, is a co-founder and the chief content officer of Today’s RDH, an independent educational publishing company for dental hygienists, encompassing articles, a podcast, virtual continuing education events, and self-study continuing education. Today’s RDH was launched in 2018 after Kara built her social media presence with her largest following on her Facebook page, Dental Hygiene with Kara RDH, which was created in 2013. An Oregon Institute of Technology graduate, Kara has a deep passion for spreading knowledge about the importance of oral health and its association with systemic health. Kara’s passion extends to helping other hygienists understand current protocols and evidence-based research – all with the goal of lifting dental hygienists and the dental hygiene profession. Kara was recognized in 2020 as one of the Top 100 Women in Media for her entrepreneurship as a co-founder of Today’s RDH. In 2022, she was recognized by the American Dental Hygienists’ Association for their Standout Seven Award in the Entrepreneur category. Kara lives in Vancouver, Washington, just outside Portland, Oregon, with her husband, Ben, and their four Chihuahuas. When she’s not working, Kara loves riding the Oregon Dunes on her quad, spoiling her Chihuahuas, and spending time with her close-knit family.