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Needlestick Prevention: 11 Essential Sharps Safety Tips for Nurses

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Nurses need to learn more about the frequency and dangers of accidental needlesticks as well as how to minimize the risks and what to do after an exposure.

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Needlestick Prevention: 11 Essential Sharps Safety Tips for Nurses

As a nurse, you selflessly dedicate your life to helping others. You serve with a deep passion, steadfast purpose and unselfish heart, and when you’re not busy saving lives, you’re comforting and caring for patients in need. Simply put: you’re a superhero to your patients—and as every superhero knows, hidden dangers can lurk around the next corner.  

Needlesticks and other sharps injuries are some of the biggest occupational dangers that nurses face every day.  In fact, nurses are most frequently injured by accidental sharps injuries, which puts them at greater risk of contracting bloodborne infections such as HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.1

Needlesticks by the Numbers

Despite advancements in medical devices, best practices, and safety protocols, needlesticks and other sharps injuries remain a risk to healthcare workers.

If you’ve ever accidentally stuck yourself in a fast-paced, emergency situation or had a patient move abruptly while you administered an injection, you know that needlesticks can happen in an instant to even the most vigilant nurses. 

5.6M Healthcare workers are at risk of occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens

Needlesticks and other sharps-related injuries continue to be a significant hazard for millions of hospital employees and student nurses and can expose workers to bloodborne pathogens such as HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.1

1000+ Sharps-related injuries occur every day, on average

While often preventable, an estimated 385,000 needlesticks and other sharps-related injuries occur annually among hospital-based personnel. That’s more than 1,000 per day, on average.2

50% of sharps injuries are believed to go unreported

The full magnitude of occupational sharps injuries is largely unknown. Surveys reveal that at least half of healthcare workers fail to report them and there is inadequate information on the frequency of injuries in non-hospital work settings.2

41% of sharps injuries occur after use and before disposal of a sharp device

Another 39% of injuries occur during use of a sharp device on a patient.2

Minimizing the Risk: Sharps Safety Starts with You

When it comes to sharps safety, prevention is key. Here are 11 tips to help minimize the risk of accidental sharps injuries on the job.

  1. Make sure your organization has a sharps safety program in place. (Check out these resources to learn how to design, implement and evaluate your own sharps injury prevention program.)
  2. Avoid needles where safe and effective alternatives are available.
  3. Advocate for devices with safety features and help your employer select and evaluate safe devices that may help to reduce the risk of needlesticks.
  4. Avoid recapping needles.
  5. Always practice safe sharps disposal. Never leave sharps out where they can potentially injure others and immediately discard used needles in sharps boxes. Avoid long-distance disposal by planning ahead and ensuring that there is a safety box within reach.
  6. Never open or overfill a sharps safety box.
  7. Avoid hand-to-hand passing of sharps and verbally alert others when moving sharps.
  8. Be sure to wear the proper protective equipment, such as gloves, masks and safety goggles, to help prevent exposures through blood and bodily fluid splatters.
  9. When necessary, get help or use proper restraints on patients who are predicted to move during a procedure.
  10. Get a Hepatitis B vaccination.
  11. Attend trainings at work to stay up to date on sharps safety protocols and best practices.

What to do if you’re exposed

The moments after a needlestick or sharps injury can be emotional and stressful.  If you’re injured, get help immediately.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends following these guidelines3 immediately after a sharps injury or other blood or bodily fluid exposure:

  • Thoroughly wash the area with soap and water
  • Flush splashes to the nose, mouth, or skin with water
  • Flush eyes with clean water, saline, or sterile irrigants
  • Report the incident to your supervisor
  • Immediately seek medical treatment and follow your institution’s post-exposure protocol

Additional Resources

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References

1 Occupational Safety and Health Administration. n.d. Healthcare Wide Hazards: Needlestick/Sharps Injuries. [online] Available at: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/hospital/hazards/sharps/sharps.html [Accessed 2 February 2021].

2 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Sharps Injury Prevention Workbook [PDF] (pp. 7, 10). Retrieved from https://www.CDC.gov/sharpssafety/pdf/workbookcomplete.pdf

3 CDC - Bloodborne Infectious Diseases - Emergency Needlestick Information - NIOSH Workplace Safety and Health Topic. (2016). Retrieved 12 February 2021, from https://www.CDC.gov/niosh/topics/bbp/emergnedl.html

Additional sources used for needlestick safety tips:

NIOSH—Publications Dissemination. (1999). Preventing Needlestick Injuries in Health Care Settings [PDF] (pp. 3-4). Cincinnati, OH. Retrieved from https://www.CDC.gov/niosh/docs/2000-108/pdfs/2000-108.pdf?id=10.26616/NIOSHPUB2000108

Make Smart Injection Choices: Prevent Needle-Stick Injuries. [PDF] (pp. 1-4). Retrieved from https://www.who.int/infection-prevention/tools/injections/IS_needlestick_Leaflet.pdf?ua=1

This is a sponsored article brought to you by allnurses.com in conjunction with the advertiser. The views expressed in this article are those of the advertiser and do not necessarily reflect allnurses.com, its parent company, or its staff.

Vigilance is needlestick/occupational accident insurance built specifically for nurses and other healthcare workers. It is designed to help minimize the financial impact of covered sharps injuries, bloodborne infections, and workplace assaults by providing a lump sum benefit that can be used in any way that you choose. Vigilance provides coverage for accidental needlesticks, felonious assaults, and occupational HIV, chronic Hepatitis B and chronic Hepatitis C acquired through a covered sharps injury or blood/bodily fluid exposure incident.

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1 Comment(s)

Daisy4RN

Specializes in Travel, Home Health, Med-Surg. Has 20 years experience.

Good article! I would just add a #12 to your list. Slow down and don't let your self be distracted. Nurse always have at least 10 more things going on/in your head but really need to focus. I learned this the hard way, everything turned out OK but really made me take note and change the way I did things.