Having been stuck more than once, with a couple of them being high-risk exposures, I am all too aware of the risks of a needlestick injury. It should be a concern to all of us.
FYI - Research into causative factors has repeatedly shown that being careful/cautious and vigilant are not always sufficient to prevent a needlestick from occuring. Injuries occur by virtue of the fact that our jobs are not always predictable, nor are our patients.
Here are some things I uncovered that can help guard against needlesticks:
1. Form a routine. This is very important. When you get distracted, it's easy to put a dirty needle on the bed or floor, take your eyes off the needle, or lose your grip. If you always do it the same way, the next safe step becomes almost automatic.
2. Do not recap with two hands. The ONLY time you should recap is when you are using a clean needle (after drawing up med but before giving it in IV or IM). Then, use a recapping device or the one-hand scoop technique. Never, ever recap a needle used on a patient. Never.
3. Once you are done with the needle, immediately dispose of it in the sharps container. Do not put it in the bed or the floor or anywhere else. When I start IVs, I always (that routine thing!) have a little emesis basis with all my IV start supplies in it. The supplies come out of it once I start prepping for the IV, and the basin is where I put my used sharp until I can get to the sharps container. As soon as that IV is secure, I am at the container with the basin to dump my needle.
4. ALWAYS look into the sharps container before you dispose of a needle to ensure that there is not a needle sticking out of it. That's one of the ways I was stuck. It was also the way Karen Black was stuck, an ER RN who contracted both HIV and HepC from her stick (and one of the driving forces behind needle safety legislation that was passed when Bill Clinton was in office). There are a variety of safer sharps disposal containers, but none is foolproof. Look before you leap - every time. If you have a disposer mounted on the wall that is too high for you to see into, go find another one.
5. If you have even the slightest hint that you will be dealing with an uncooperative patient, get help from another nurse or tech before you stick.
6. Do not rush. If you are in a hurry, you increase the chances of injury.
7. There are lots of safer needle products on the market. Hospitals are mandated to provide these for us. They can be tricky to learn to use, so take the time to learn to use them correctly before you put them into the patient. It costs the hospital far less for you to use up a dozen safety syringes as you practice than it does for them to process a needlestick injury workup (not to mention the emotional cost it takes on you!)
Hope this helps. Needlesticks are a risk in our line of work, and until we don't use needles at all, we need to be mindful about the risks. But also realize that the chances that you could contract a serious illness from a stick is small, even for the highest-risk sticks (hollow bore needle filled with blood from a patient in late stage HIV or hepatitis infection).