Healthcare workers in the U.S. suffer many sharps injuries, including needlesticks, each year.. It has been estimated that one out of every seven workers is accidentally stuck by a contaminated sharp each and every year!
Of all healthcare worker groups, physicians are much less likely to report a needlestick injury than other healthcare professionals. Estimates indicate that approximately only one out of three needlesticks are even reported. According to NIOSH, “Today alone over 2,100 health care professionals will incur a needlestick related injury.” [NIOSH Study, 1999]
From these sharps injuries there have been 57 documented cases of HIV seroconversion among healthcare personnel through 2001. Two thousand workers a year become infected with hepatitis C, and 400 contract hepatitis B. More than 20 additional types of infectious agents have been transmitted through needlesticks, including tuberculosis, syphilis, malaria, herpes, diphtheria, gonorrhea, typhus and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
- One out of five healthcare workers sustain a needlestick injury every year
- Serious or fatal infections like HIV and hepatitis B and C have been acquired from needlesticks
- Safety devices prevent needlesticks
- Safety devices are the law – employers must provide them
How do needlestick injuries happen?
- A “needlestick” means a break in the skin from a needle or other “sharp” such as a scalpel.
What infections are caused by needlestick injuries?
- An injury from a contaminated needle exposes workers to bloodborne pathogens that can cause serious or fatal infections. The most serious infections are: HIV,Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C,
Where do sharps injuries occur? They have been reported from all healthcare settings, including:
- Ambulatory settings
- Physician offices
- Nursing homes
- Skilled nursing facilities
- Home health/assisted living
Who is at risk of a sharps injury?
- Any heatlhcare worker is at risk of injury or infection if they handle sharps, such as, hypodermic needles, IV catheters, phlebotomy devices, suture needles, scalpels, or lancets.
- Nurses, phlebotomists, physicians, physicians’ assistants, technicians and public health and safety workers may be at risk because of the type of work they perform.
How to protect from sharps injuries?
Sharps injuries can occur at any time during the use or disposal of a device. For example, 40 percent of injuries occur during use, another 40 percent occur after use and before disposal, and 15 percent are disposal-related. Recapping needles, a practice that is prohibited, still accounts for nearly 5 percent of needlestick injuries.
What can healthcare workers do?
- Remind employers that they are required by law to evaluate and purchase safety devices
- Make sure that you receive training on any new safety devices
- Always use safety devices
- Place a sharps disposal container close to the procedure area.
- Limit interruptions during procedures
- Explain the procedure to patients to gain their cooperation and avoid potential movement during the procedure
- Ask for assistance with patients that might be uncooperative,such as children
- Dispose with care
- Never recap needles! This is against the law!
- Dispose of used needles in sharps disposal containers
- Avoid overfilling sharps disposal containers
- Care for yourself
- Get a hepatitis B vaccination; this should be provided at no cost by your employer
- Report all needlestick and other injuries
Most needlestick injuries can be prevented with the use of safety devices, which, in conjunction with worker education and training and work practice controls, can reduce injuries by over 90 percent.
Be proactive in preventing needlestick injuries in your practice setting. Talk to your employer if you are not aware of an exposure control plan or do not have access to safety devices. Actively participate in the evaluation of new or existing safety devices. Look for features that will add to your safety.