Low Staffing Levels Increase Chances of Needle-Stick Injuries

  1. FRom ANA News:

    Low Staffing Levels Increase Chances of Needle-Stick Injuries

    Needle-stick injuries in hospital nurses increase dramatically when nurse staffing levels are low, University of Pennsylvania researchers conclude in the June 2002 issue of the American Journal of Infection Control. Current research indicates that patient outcomes suffer when nurse staffing levels fall; however, this is one of the first studies linking on-the-job injuries in hospital nurses with heavier workloads.
    The study, conducted in 22 US hospitals, all with reputations for excellence, found that poor working conditions and high workloads were associated with 50% to 200% increases in needle-stick injuries and near-misses. The report went on to say that hospital cost-cutting might have a double-edged effect on injuries. "Nurses potentially unfamiliar with safe use of sharps were often forced to become proficient while their workloads were increasing in other ways," said Sean Clarke, RN, PhD, associate director of the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.

    See Abstracts:
    American Journal of Infection Control
    June 2002 * Volume 30 * Number 4

    Organizational climate, staffing, and safety equipment as predictors of needlestick injuries and near-misses in hospital nurses
    S P Clarke, J L Rockett, D M Sloane, L H Aiken

    Nurse staffing and health care-associated infections: Proceedings from a working group meeting
    M Jackson, L A Chiarello, R P Gaynes, J L Gerberding
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  3. by   BKPruitt
    About 10 years ago -- when the first clumsy "safety" contraptions were beginning to appear for needles -- I worked as a phlebotomist in a busy urban hospital.

    Needlesticks were a fact of life when you drew up to 60 patients per shift, many in confused states. Once stuck, you simply rushed to the patient's chart hoping it didn't show any drug use or HIV background. Beyond quick application of iodine, that's all you could do.

    Then you prayed for several months while watching reruns of your life pass your eyes.

    After several such incidents which were unpreventable, I left the business. With my new wife a nurse, and I in bloodletting, the risk of both of us contracting HIV and passing it to each other during sex was twice as high.

    I recently became a nursing student, and I'm impressed by the advances in needleless products and safety procedures that have developed over the past decade. Needlestick injuries still exist, and some healthcare workers will still reach into a Sharps container to retrieve a syringe. But steady progress has much reduced the risks.

    It is one of the proud advances of our industry that isn't recognized often.
    Last edit by BKPruitt on Jun 8, '02
  4. by   -jt
    <It is one of the proud advances of our industry that isn't recognized often.>

    Thanks for saying that. It took a lot of hard work, mostly by nurses, to get national law passed that forced the industry to come up with these systems & forced the employers to provide them in the workplace.
  5. by   BKPruitt
    You're right JT. It was the healthcare workers -- the "stickees," that forced the changes. The response by hospitals at the time was "just be more careful."

    After most of the times I was stuck, I would look back on the procedure and not be able to improve upon what I had done. There is always that variable that can't be predicted or planned for. So there will always be accidents.
  6. by   SmilingBluEyes
    I as a relatively new nurse, thank all of you "on the frontlines" for helping to advance safety levels and awareness for us all. I salute you!