Needlestick Injuries Are Still a Problem

November 21, 2008
Keli Rising

Needles can be dangerous in healthcare, especially for nurses, who tend to handle them the most. In fact, the CDC "estimates that more than 800,000 needlesticks and other sharps injuries occur each year in the US," but tend to be "dramatically underreported, by anywhere from 40 to 70 percent."

Needles can be dangerous in healthcare, especially for nurses, who tend to handle them the most. In fact, the CDC “estimates that more than 800,000 needlesticks and other sharps injuries occur each year in the US,” but tend to be “dramatically underreported, by anywhere from 40 to 70 percent.” If needles are not properly handled, administered, and disposed of, they may transmit infections should a patient or nurse be accidentally jabbed by one. In order to decrease the likelihood that someone will be injured is through needlesticks, safety measures need to be established. In the American Nurses Association’s Needlestick Prevention Guide, evidence is presented that safety features reduced injuries:

• Needleless or protected-needle IV systems decreased needlestick injuries related to IV connectors by 62% to 88%.

• Phlebotomy injuries were reduced by 76% with a self-blunting needle, 66% with a hinged needle shield, and 23% with a sliding-shield, winged-steel (butterfly-type) needle.

• Phlebotomy injuries were reduced by 82% with a needle shield, but a recapping device had minimal impact.

• Safer IV catheters that encase the needle after use reduced needlestick injuries related to IV insertion by 83% in three hospitals.

Alison M. Trinkoff, ScD, RN, FAAN, of the Department of Behavioral and Community Health, University of Maryland School of Nursing, researched this problem and learned that nurses “who worked with needles 21-40 times or more a day were 2-3 times more likely to sustain a stick injury.” She said that this “explains why staff and hospital nurses in emergency, adult critical care, OR, oncology, transplantation, AIDS, cath lab, diagnostics or hemodialysis, presented with the highest percentage of needlestick injury” ().

Moreover, oncology nurses who administer chemotherapy are using Huber needles and are at risk for injuries, which a major concern especially after the Exposure Prevention Information Network announced that “rebound needle injuries are on the risk and pose a high risk for pathogen transmission.”

Although there are needles with safety features and prevention methods are being used, nurses and patients are still at risk of getting a needlestick injury. Why do you think this is the case? Have you had a needlestick injury?

Additional Resources:

The Impact of Unintentional Needlesticks

Protecting the Healthcare Worker: Focus on Oncology

RN Spreads Message after Acquiring Infections from Needle

Safe Needles Save Lives