Needle Stick Injury Guidelines: What to Do In Case of a Needle Stick

There are roughly 1,000 sharps-related injuries each day. When you realize the volume of incidents involving scalpels, needles, or other sharp objects, it is easy to see why needle stick injury guidelines are important. Are you looking for ways to reduce needle stick injuries in your practice? Want to ensure that your staff has the training to properly handle sharps? If needle stick exposure is possible in your practice, read on for ways to keep your staff healthy.

Causes of Needle Sticks

Various things can lead to needle sticks, but nearly all of them are avoidable. Fatigue, improper training, inexperienced staff, and less than ideal equipment all increase the risk of needle stick exposure. Staffers do not need to be in patient-facing roles to experience a needle stick. They can occur when sharps are not disposed of properly, and the employee is gathering laundry or emptying trash. Ideally, everyone in the office should understand needle stick injury guidelines.

Dangers of Needle Sticks

Needle sticks are a way for bloodborne pathogens to spread. The ones most people are aware of are HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. In addition to the possibility of infection from the needle, the individual will also experience stress as they wait for the test results indicating whether or not they are free from disease. Proper training is the best way to avoid potential exposure to contaminated blood. In a busy workplace, it is easy for basic safety protocol to fall by the wayside. Training that stresses the importance of PPE, details the proper handling and disposal of sharps and teaches students how to handle possible exposure decreases the incidents of workplace accidents.

Handling Needle Sticks in the Workplace

It is important to have a needle stick protocol in place, so when needle sticks occur, everyone involved knows exactly what to do. The injured worker should immediately wash the area with soap and water, report the incident to their supervisor, and seek medical attention.

The Most Common Diseases Acquired From Needle Sticks

About 20 different types of infections may pass through infected blood. They include less serious conditions, such as Epstein-Barr and CMV, as well as more devastating illnesses. Hepatitis B spreads through contact with infected blood and causes inflammation of the liver. While there is no cure for hepatitis B, early treatment is important for long-term health. There is an effective vaccination available for hepatitis B. All healthcare workers should consider it as added protection. If you are not immunized and receive a needle stick, ask your doctor about receiving the vaccination at that point. Hepatitis C is another variation of hepatitis. There is no vaccine available for hepatitis C. HIV is the illness most people think of when worrying about needle sticks. HIV compromises the immune system, causing infected individuals to be more susceptible to pneumonia, the flu, and other infections. Experts estimate that around 14 percent of the people infected with HIV do not realize they have the condition.

Considerations To Take When Dealing With HIV-Positive Individuals

It can be frightening if you receive a needle stick from a positive-HIV individual. It is important to follow the appropriate needle stick protocol, but take comfort in the fact that cases of HIV transmission through needle sticks are low. Factors that increased the likelihood of infection include experiencing a deep injury from the stick, visible blood from the patient on the sharp, a stick during a procedure that requires needle placement in an artery or vein, or exposure within two months of the patient passing away from AIDS. After a needle stick exposure from someone who is HIV-positive, your doctor may recommend a 4-week course of antiretroviral drugs.

How To Keep Your Employees Safe

The single most important thing you can do to keep employees safe from needle sticks is minimizing the use of sharps. Take advantage of any procedure that has a safer alternative. When using sharps, use devices with built-in safety features. Make training a priority. Your employees should know how to both safely use and dispose of sharps. Frequently remind all employees how to handle needle sticks. Documentation and reporting are as important as cleaning the wound.

Guidelines For Employees

There are several types of high-risk behavior that increase the likelihood of needle sticks. Do not have employees recap needles before disposing of them. Remind them to check for proper disposal before beginning any procedure involving sharps. Provide regular, up-to-date training on bloodborne pathogens and safe needle use.

What To Expect if You or Someone in Your Practice Receives a Needle Stick

When washing the injury, do not attempt to stem any bleeding. Allowing the wound to drain is good, but don't attempt to suck any blood from the wound. The best method of washing is to wash with soap under running water for at least 60 seconds. Pat dry and cover until you can seek further healthcare. The healthcare provider will ask some questions to determine the risk of infection. If the risk is low, further treatment may not be necessary. If it seems likely that there was exposure to infection, the healthcare provider may recommend treatment with antibiotics, vaccinating against hepatitis B, or treatment to prevent HIV. In addition to physically treating the wound, anyone who receives a needle stick may benefit from counseling while waiting to learn if the exposure led to illness. After the initial treatment for needle stick injuries, a follow-up blood test may be recommended about 4 to 6 months after exposure. A clear blood test at this point should be enough to assume a clean bill of health. Trauma after exposure is common. To help your employee regain their confidence after this type of event, consider offering an updated training course on handling needle stick injuries. Frequent reminders help enforce good work habits.

Other Types of Exposure

Needle sticks aren't the only way exposure to bloodborne pathogens occurs. It is possible to be exposed to blood droplets that reach the eyes, nose, or mouth. If this occurs, it is important to flush the area with water for at least 60 seconds. Report this type of exposure just as you would a needle stick. Exposure to blood can also occur through open wounds. These wounds do not have to be large at all. Cracked, dry hands, for example, may create entry points for blood exposure.

Preventing Other Types of Exposure

Personal protective equipment is the key to protecting yourself and others from bloodborne pathogens. Face masks and shields, gowns, and gloves are the best way to stay safe when exposed to blood or other fluids.

Make Safety a Priority

Make it a habit to assume that anyone you come into contact with has a bloodborne illness. This is known as taking universal precautions. Never assume anyone is safe, and remain vigilant at any time you may be exposed. Take care when disposing of equipment used during any procedures, making certain that sharps make it to their dedicated container. Use proper decontamination procedures after each patient.

Encourage Reporting

One real risk of needle sticks is lack of reporting. Many individuals avoid reporting injuries due to fear over the reception from management. If employees are concerned they will be moved to positions of lesser responsibility or given negative performance evaluations due to needle sticks, they are less likely to report them.

Why Some Employees Resist Reporting Exposure

Another reason someone may avoid reporting their exposure is if they are unsure that they experienced a reportable incident. It is important to train your employees to recognize when exposure may occur and to empower them to speak up if they believe something is unsafe. Finally, many employees may not want to report needle sticks because they feel the exposure is at least partially their fault, they are embarrassed, or they were not wearing proper PPE during the procedure.

Blood Isn't the Only Concern

When training your employees about the need for safety when working with sharps, remind them that blood exposure shouldn't be their only concern. Any body fluid may contain infectious material that can be transmitted through contact. Training should include proper cleanup after exposure to feces, saliva, vomit, and other secretions. It is important to treat every patient as if they are potentially carrying a transmittable illness.

Teaching Needle Stick Injury Guidelines

Is your company up-to-date on needle stick injury guidelines? Staying up to date on training is important to keep your employees safe. Regular reminders ensure that everyone in the office practices universal precautions to keep them and their coworkers healthy. For high quality, affordable training, get in touch with HIPAA Exams. We provide the most up to date training for anyone who works in an industry where they may be exposed to bloodborne pathogens.