I did not pay close attention to warnings about the possibility of needlestick injuries while I was in my nursing program. I did not think a needlestick would ever happen to me. And, well, it hasn’t…yet. As I progress in my nurse practitioner career I witness more and more needlestick injuries among my coworkers and have also had close calls myself.
I recall one incident at work where a nurse practitioner left a suturing needle on a tray in the exam room following a procedure. This resulted in a needlestick to the nurse who was cleaning the room following the procedure. I recall another incident where a nurse (and friend) was stuck while trying to give a combative psychiatric patient an injection. This particular patient had been diagnosed with hepatitis. I can’t imagine her fear of contracting a blood bourne illness.
Nursing programs warn us of the dangers of needlesticks. Companies constantly create safer injection devices. Despite these efforts, the occurrence of needlesticks in the workplace remains a reality. According to Safe in Common, a movement of healthcare personnel committed to reducing the risk of needlestick injuries in the workplace, 385,000 needlestick and other sharps related injuries occur among hospital-based healthcare providers each year. This equates to an average of 1,000 needlestick and sharps injuries per day.
What should you as a healthcare provider do to prevent a needlestick injury? I believe the first step is increasing your awareness. If 1,000 needlesticks occur each day, the danger is real. Pay attention to what you are doing before, during and especially after you use sharps or injection devices. Your work is not done once you complete an injection or procedure. You must be vigilant about disposing of needles properly. Secondly, use safe injection devices. Most hospitals and healthcare facilities provide safe needles. Make sure you know how to use them properly. Needlestick injuries are preventable; taking steps to reduce your risk of injury is necessary.
Start increasing awareness of needle and sharps safety by taking the Needlestick Safety Pledge!