Going into a medical procedure is always a little scary. The best way to minimize fear and anxiety is to go in as prepared as you can! If you are feeling nervous for an upcoming PICC line placement procedure, here are some confidence boosting tips for feeling ready to go:
1. know what to expect
The unknown is a scary place. The more you can picture what the procedure will look and feel like, the less daunting it will seem. Talk to patients who’ve been there before and listen to their experiences. Don’t know anyone who’s had a PICC line? No worries! There are plenty of support groups available (our Friends in the Fight facebook group has plenty of PICC veterans who are always happy to share their stories and support fellow patients!) and blogs you can read. You can also ask your doctor and other providers to talk you through it in detail until you feel more comfortable.
For now, know that the procedure itself shouldn’t hurt (they numb your arm with an ultra-thin needle, just like at the dentist), and the catheter itself is tiny — about the width and flexibility of fresh spaghetti!
Check out our many blogs about PICC experiences here!
2. make the most of your prep appointment
Let’s face it, while we may go into doctor visits with the best of intentions, most of the time we leave and realize we never asked that question and don’t remember half of what the doctor said. This is normal! Visits can feel stressful or rushed and our brains tend to not do their best under pressure — unless we prepare ahead of time!
You will likely have an appointment scheduled ahead of your placement procedure to go over PICC-related information with your providers. Before you go in, there are steps you can take to make sure you get the information you need:
- Write down a list of questions ahead of time, when you feel relaxed and relatively clear-headed. Bring this list with you!
- Bring a pad and pencil to write down important information (and the answers to your questions) and don’t be afraid to ask for informational handouts or a print-out of the visit notes. If you are someone who benefits from visuals, ask to see some! Doctors often have pictures or 3D models of the procedure available.
- Get there early — you are more likely to have a clear head and less likely to feel rushed if you arrive early and have time to settle in.
- Consider bringing an advocate — someone to ask probing questions, take notes, and have your back if needed — to the appointment. If that’s not an option, try to schedule a phone call with a trusted support person after the appointment, so that you can debrief and talk through what you learned. This may help it stick in your mind and will give you a chance to process any emotions that get stirred up.
3. know what to bring
Your doctor should share these details in your prep appointment, but you’ll want to keep a few things in mind when getting ready for your PICC placement procedure. First, wear comfortable clothes, especially a top that is loose and can be easily removed with one hand. You will feel awkward and swollen after the procedure. Rest easier knowing you can get into PJ’s without complication.
Secondly, have PICC line covers ready to go — a comfortable protective sleeve (like the PICCPerfect PICC Line Cover here) not only keeps your tender skin feeling more comfortable, it also keeps everything covered up and securely in place; this will help reduce complications like infection, dislodgement, and unplanned dressing changes. The hospital will typically provide something to temporarily cover your PICC line, but bringing a PICC line cover gives you the opportunity to ask the nurse questions about how to use it. You may also want to ask your doctor ahead of time if they prescribe PICCPerfect Pro sleeves — if so, you can get them covered by insurance!
Finally, bring with you the confidence to speak up during the procedure! The radiologist (or whoever places your catheter) will check in periodically, and they want to know how you’re feeling — honestly. For example, numbing the arm can take longer for some patients than others. If they ask you if your arm is numb, be honest! The procedure should be painless, but only you can know how it feels. If you start to feel pain, discomfort, or anxiety at any time, don’t hesitate to tell your team. They can make it feel better, but only if they know something’s wrong.
4. be ready for the first week post-PICC
The initial procedure may feel daunting, but it really only takes about 20 minutes to insert a catheter. You’ll want to make sure that you have enough support in place once you get home. Your arm will be numb at first, and then sore and swollen for a few days. You may need to spend time icing the area and won’t be able to use your arm fully right away. You will also need to meet with your home care nurse for dressing changes and to learn how to take care of your PICC line. Add to all of this the emotions that can come from receiving new medical devices and treatments… all in all, it’s going to be a weird week. Well in advance, reach out for support. If you can, take time off from work, school, or other regular activities. Find extra help with childcare or pets. Ask someone if they can come over to help with meal prep or to just talk when you feel emotionally vulnerable. Learn about how to manage pain if it does pop up. As much of this that you can get lined up in advance, the less stressful your first week will feel.
After that, when your swelling and soreness are gone, you feel more comfortable with your PICC line, and you’ve processed some emotions, you can ease back into your usual routine. But the more support you set up for the first week, the quicker you will return to normal life. And yes, you can still live a normal life with a PICC! This is just a step your body needs to get the right treatment and find healing ♡