Tyler Collins

Nov. 17, 2022
A photo of Tyler Collins
Tyler Collins

Comforting patients with distraction techniques and stickers

Tyler Collins knows what it’s like to be fearful in a hospital setting. Growing up, he was in and out of hospitals, and he quickly learned distraction techniques to calm himself down.

Collins, lab technician phlebotomist at UCHealth Laboratory – Cherry Creek in Denver, adapts his distraction techniques in an effort to comfort his patients experiencing fear.

“He calms their fears and works hard to make comfortable those patients who are scared or worried about getting their blood drawn,” said Katia Carlisle, clinical laboratory manager. “He chats with patients and offers distractions to quell their anxiety.”

One distraction tool Collins’ uses with patients is interactive storytelling and character development. He adapts Dungeons and Dragons campaigns with a more modernized approach. One of his go-to scenarios involves a Blockbuster Video.

“Let me ask you a question,” Collins begins. “Let’s pretend you and I are at a Blockbuster Video and you have a coupon for three free movies and a snack. What’s the name of the person behind the cash register?”

This distraction technique leaves the patient thinking about the three movies and snacks, but there is a twist in his line of questioning.

“First thing I did was ask a question,” said Collins. “You think you know the answer, but I switch it. While doing that, I just put the needle in and you’re thinking about that instead.”

Collins continues with his storytelling until he completes the blood draw, effectively distracting patients while having fun in the process.

“Tyler even buys stickers, out of his own funds, to hand out to patients to brighten their day,” said Carlisle.

His stickers usually feature an animal. Everyone, regardless of age, gets offered a sticker. Collins’ rule is – if you get stuck, you get a sticker.

This is usually met with excitement. He once had a patient say, “I waited 93 years to get my first sticker!” If his patient mentions giving their sticker to their grandkids, Collins will continue to ask how many grandkids they have and provide additional stickers so that everyone gets one.

These kinds of personalized distractions build upon his relationships with patients, often causing patients to specifically ask for him during their next visit. He even sees patients who travel out-of-state to see him, some as far as Connecticut.

“It makes me feel good,” Collins said of his repeat patients. “Because it makes me feel like I’m helping them feel better. I know how scary it is. So if I can make that more comforting, that’s a good feeling.”

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About the author

Christine Freer joined UCHealth as a communications specialist in 2022. Prior to joining UCHealth, Freer served as the lead public information officer at the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County. She spent the last 11 years working in public health, program management, and health care marketing and communications. Freer earned a Bachelor of Arts in public health promotion from Purdue University and a Master of Public Health in social marketing from the University of South Florida. She lives in Colorado Springs with her husband, Jim, and their German shepherd, Lincoln.