Academic journal article Contemporary Nurse : a Journal for the Australian Nursing Profession

The Need for Continuous Education in the Prevention of Needlestick Injuries

Academic journal article Contemporary Nurse : a Journal for the Australian Nursing Profession

The Need for Continuous Education in the Prevention of Needlestick Injuries

Article excerpt


Needlestick injuries (NSI) have been a concern for health professionals due to the risk of contracting blood borne diseases. Despite all attempts to minimise harm, injuries still occur as needles and syringes are still commonly used in health care settings. In a recent publication the authors mentioned the possibility that in Europe up to 1.2 million NSI happen per year (Berufgenossenschaftfür Gesundheitsdienst und Wohlfahrtpflege [The Mutual Indemnity Association for Health Services and Social Care], 2010). These could lead to infections such as Hepatitis or Aids. In order to prevent or minimize the risk of infection, many safety devices have been invented. Making the usage of needles safer can range from policies and procedures, to devices that physically destroy the needles. Some of the more recent inventions include, for instance, retractable needles. A recent poll by the Royal College of Nurses (RCN, November 2008) reveals that 96% of nurses in the UK use needles in their daily practice and 48% have been injured by a needle or sharp. This suggests, amongst other, that employer policies on NSI are inadequate. As a result the RCN is calling for safer needle devices to become mandatory (Snow, 2008). In March 2010, the European Council published guidelines (2010/32/EU) to prevent NSI, as well as injuries using sharps (Berufgenossenschaftfür Gesundheitsdienst und Wohlfahrtpflege, 2010).


In New Zealand most District Health Boards have policies and procedures in place to reduce the risk of NSI. However due to the independent nature, variability in size and context of private practices and Public Health Organisations (PHO), this may not always be the case for community and practice nurses working in these settings. This was also found by Shah, Bonauto, Silverstein, and Foley (2005) who believed that health care workers working in non-hospital settings are more at risk of NSI and few studies have been done to document the problem.

As a professional group, nurses accounted for the largest proportion (29%) of health care workers involved in NSI. Nurses are known to be a high-risk group for needlestick and sharp injuries and blood-borne pathogens are easily transmitted through such injuries (Chalupka, Markkanen, Galligan, & Quinn, 2008; Smith & Leggat, 2005). Mark et al. (2007) quoted the American Nurses Association (2003) on hospital nurses having the highest rates of work-related injuries, with back injuries and NSI occurring most often. The authors further quoted studies on nurses reporting NSI, which are most alarming. A small scale study (Inviro Medical, 2006) was cited where 64% of the respondents reported being stuck by a needle while working, 47% of those reported injuries through contaminated needles, and 47% also reported being stuck more than once by clean and contaminated needles (Mark et al., 2007). However, the Nursing Standard recently cited research by the UK Health Protection Agency as revealing that for the first time, doctors and dentists are reporting more NSI than nurses (Anonymous, 2008).

Zafar et al. (2009) specifically referred to the risk of contracting blood-borne infections through NSI. The authors quoted the global figures for blood-borne infections, with 16,000 HCV and 66,000 HBV infections being the highest figures, and 1,000 HIV infections being reported. These figures demonstrate the urgent need for needlestick injury preventive measures. Even though blood borne pathogens such as HIV and hepatitis B and C are commonly associated with NSI, Jagger (2008) suggested that almost anything contaminating a needle poses a risk to a health care worker. Safety measures to prevent NSI include avoiding recapping needles, bending or breaking needles, removing needles from disposable syringes and the use of safe disposal containers (Friese, Bonnie, & Boness, 2008), and yet Sharma, Rasania, Verma, and Singh (2010) specifically reported that the most common cause of NSI in a large tertiary care hospital in Delhi, India, is recapping of needles. …

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