I'm posting my reply to another member earlier this year on the same subject. This is my story:
March 2006, pt with internal defibillator in V-tach. Defibillator is firing every 30 seconds or so causing his body to jump off the stretcher. New lab tech in to draw blood. Absolutely TERRIFIED at the thought of touching pt because someone has told her she'll get shocked, but blood HAS to be drawn. Being the hero-complex sufferer that I am, I volunteered to hold pt's arm for her to draw blood. She drew the blood, defibillator fired, pt jumped, and a needle attached to a syringe full of freshly drawn blood went into my gloved hand right between my thumb and index finger. Pt was a known IV-drug user and a fairly frequent flyer whom we all knew was + for Hep C. As a matter of fact, when my nurse manager was told I had been stuck by his dirty needle, her first comment was, "Oh, God! Of all the people to get stuck by!". Thanks...that really helped my anxiety riddled @ss.
Fortunately, he was negative for HIV. But I spent the next few weeks nervous as Hell that I would get stuck again. I would break out in a cold sweat everytime I had to handle a needle. I would find myself thinking, "what if I get stuck again", "what if this one is HIV positive", etc. Being nervous and scared of the needles made me more clumsy with them. I realized I had to get over my fear or I was going to end up sticking myself. These days, I have a healthy respect for them and I am as careful as I can be, but I don't get scared at the thought of getting stuck everytime I pick one up. I guess what I'm saying, is that if you really want to be in the ER, don't let a fear of "what if" stop you. Use common sense and safety precautions and understand there is a risk of a needle stick no matter what area of the hospital you work, just like there is a chance of an accident everytime you walk out of your house. Its a chance. It is not a sure thing.
By the way, the pt survived only to die earlier this year from an OD. I had a year of labwork and every test came back negative. I figure if I didn't catch Hep C from that stick, the percentages really must be low.
The best advice I can offer you is to allow yourself to be scared. Allow yourself to cry. You can only know how traumatic a dirty needle stick is if you've been stuck. But with every negative test you get, your anxiety will lessen. Demand proper testing for yourself and the source. I called the CDC myself to make sure I was getting proper testing because I had doubts in the competency of our infection control nurse. I also demanded HIV tests with every blood draw just to "make sure". Advocate for yourself. Keep copies of your labwork. Especially the baseline result so if you should contract Hep C, you'll have proof you didn't have it before. But mostly, keep in mind that the chances are very low that you'll catch this. The odds are in your favor. And remember, we're here anytime you need a shoulder.