Anyone who works in the medical field runs the risk of a needlestick injury. This wound is when a needle accidentally punctures the skin. This type of injury falls into a larger category of sharps injuries. Other forms of sharps are scalpels, scissors, glass and any other item that can cut the skin. This can be a dangerous workplace injury.
Needlestick Injury: How to Avoid and Treat Them
First, an important step in preventing a needlestick injury is to reduce any unnecessary usage of needles. However, do this only when there are safe, effective alternatives available. Healthcare workers should receive proper training so that they know how to properly handle and dispose of needles. Proper training will help to reduce the risk of injury.
There are tools and steps that can help to reduce the risk of a needle stick. Knowing the proper techniques for recapping a needle will go a long way. Certain sharps have shields that allow for safe recapping of needles. Also, don’t let sharps disposal boxes get too full so that needles can be safely disposed of. A needle may be able to stick a worker if a sharp disposal box is too full.
Steps if Injury Occurs
If someone does have a needlestick injury, immediately wash the wound with soap and water. It’s okay if to encourage the wound to bleed immediately, preferable under running water. Then, notify a supervisor and follow the workplace injury protocol. Don’t forget to cover the wound with a bandage.
Next, if the needle has been used, it is important to identify the source patient. Sometimes, this is impossible as the injury may not occur with a specific patient nearby. First, this patient would be contacted and told of the situation. They would undergo testing for HIV, Hepatitis B and C, and other infectious diseases if they agree to do so. In the same way, the injured employee will need to immediately get tested too. HIV treatment works best if started in the first 72 hours after exposure. Therefore, fast action and testing can be crucial.
Depending on the extent of your injury, you may need to get psychological support. This could also include counseling to help with any stress that the injury has caused. The employer can also provide options that are available.
As you can see, healthcare workers are certainly at a higher risk for being injured with a needle. However, with proper training and prevention measures, the chances for these injuries can be reduced.