Healthcare workers who use or may be exposed to needles are at an increased risk of needle stick injury. Such injuries can lead to serious or fatal infections with blood borne pathogens such as hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus, or HIV.
These injuries are caused by hypodermic needles, blood collection needles, intravenous (IV) sty lets, and needles used to connect parts of IV delivery systems.
Know the Facts
According to a National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) alert, more than 8 million healthcare workers in the United States work in hospitals and other healthcare settings. Health care workers include physicians, nurses, laboratory and dental personnel, pre-hospital care providers, and housekeeping, laundry, and maintenance workers.
Annual needlestick injuries in the US average between 600,000 to 1 million. About half of these injuries go unreported. Data suggests that at an average hospital, workers may incur as many as 30 needle sick injuries per 100 beds per year. Estimates indicate that as many as 80 per cent of needle stick injuries could be prevented with the use of safety devices, such as safety syringes.
Laboratory staff, physicians, housekeepers, and other health care workers are included in these statistics, but the majority of needle stick injuries involve nursing staff. Some of these injuries expose workers to blood borne pathogens that can cause infection. The most important of these pathogens are HBV, HCV, and HIV. Infections with each of these pathogens are potentially life threatening and preventable.
The emotional impact of a needle stick injury can be severe and long lasting, even when a serious infection is not transmitted. This impact is particularly severe when the injury involves exposure to HIV. In one study of 20 health care workers with an HIV exposure, 11 reported acute severe distress, 7 had persistent moderate distress, and 6 quit their jobs as a result of the exposure.
Other stress reactions requiring counseling have also been reported. Not knowing the infection status of the source patient can accentuate the health care workers stress. In addition to the exposed health care worker, colleagues and family members may suffer emotionally.
Using SafeSnap® Can Help
Accumulating evidence indicates that devices with safety features reduce needle stick injuries:
- Needle less or protected-needle IV systems decreased needle stick injuries related to IV connectors by 62% to 88% [Gartner 1992; Yassi et al. 1995; Lawrence et al. 1997].
- Phlebotomy injuries were reduced by 76% with a self-blunting needle, 66% with a hinged needle shield, and 23% with a sliding-shield, winged-steel (butterfly-type) needle [CDC 1997a].
- Phlebotomy injuries were reduced by 82% with a needle shield, but a recapping device had minimal impact [Billiet et al. 1991].
- Safer IV catheters that encase the needle after use reduced needle stick injuries related to IV insertion by 83% in three hospitals [Jagger 1996].
Other studies also document substantial reductions in needlestick injuries with the proper use of needle less systems or newer safety needle devices used in a comprehensive program to prevent needle stick injuries [NCCC and DVA 1997; Zafar et al. 1997].
Legislation, education, and implementation of safety programs all contribute to the reduction and possible elimination of needle stick injuries.