NeedleCalm Founder and Sydney clinical specialist nurse Lauren Barber has been awarded the Health Minister’s Award for Nursing Trailblazers for her outstanding contributions to the medical field with her medtech device.
Conferred by Mark Butler, Minister for Health and Aged Care, the Award for Nursing Trailblazers recognises innovators in nursing whose work transforms health and aged care systems by significantly improving health outcomes for the Australian community through evidenced-based processes.
The Class 1 medical device, which was registered with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) in September 2021, is now in use as a first-line treatment at a number of hospitals, IVF clinics, emergency departments and general practice settings across Australia.
Barber founded NeedleCalm in 2016, inspired by her personal experience as a nurse where she assisted with a procedure on a young patient, resulting in a needlestick injury that required surgery. It led her to reflect on how patient experience with needle-related procedures has not changed over the years, resulting in poor patient outcomes and injuries for healthcare workers.
The device uses a combination of science and psychology to “close the gate” between the needle injection site and pain receptors in the brain, thereby allowing practitioners to minimise the perception of pain and administer needle procedures with accuracy, safety and consistency.
This helps alleviate the physical and mental distress of needle procedures, while saving approximately 20 minutes of clinician time. It is also comparatively cost-effective to most current alternative needle phobia strategies.
The device is about the size of a business card and has three main components, including an outer layer that helps contain the cold, an inner layer that contains small protrusions to help with pressure and silicone tape to secure the device onto the skin.
It works by getting in between the pain and the brain, helping the brain focus on the larger sensation of the NeedleCalm rather than the sharp sensation of the needle. Patients can also press on it themselves during the procedure to focus away from the needle.
Barber is the fifth nurse to receive the award in its history, and the first from NSW. NeedleCalm has previously won a number of local and international awards, including the Fishburners Tech For Good 2022 Female Founder award and the 2021 Good Design Award.
NeedleCalm is manufactured locally, backed the Sydney Phobia Clinic, and endorsed by the Australian Patient Association.
The NSW Government provided NeedleCalm’s initial investment as part of an initiative to support female founders and due to demonstrating proof of product performance, according to NeedleCalm.
Lauren Barber, CEO and Founder of NeedleCalm, said: “While working in the field, I realised there was a strong correlation between healthcare avoidance and needle phobia, particularly where there was already existing trauma.
There’s a lack of awareness and research about the problem itself, resulting in patients avoiding healthcare entirely, said Barber, noting that this can have detrimental effects on their health and wellbeing, while also posing safety risks to clinicians and medical practitioners.
“It can also lead to long wait times in emergency departments and bed blocks, and result in equipment misuse, while taking up an inordinate number of staff hours. The exact cost per hospital is difficult to calculate, but our estimates and research show that it could equate to approximately $20K per day in each hospital.
“By providing patients with a comfortable experience during needle procedures, NeedleCalm aims to improve patient rapport with their clinicians and minimise the impact of healthcare avoidance. Receiving this recognition by the Department of Health and Aged Care will go a long way to not only improving awareness about the issue, but also in assisting nurses and other clinicians improve patient experience.”