Needlestick Injury Prevention


‘Tis the season of giving and sharing, but in the healthcare world, ‘tis the season of flu shots and IV fluids. Healthcare workers don’t necessarily enjoy giving shots, but they certainly don’t want to share what is on the other end of that needle after the shot is given. There have been several prevention protocols and protective devices put in place over the years to prevent needlestick injuries.  However, they are still one of the most prevalent injuries in the healthcare industry today. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are approximately 385,000 needlestick or other sharp-related injuries occurring in healthcare each year. It is not the little prick on the tip of your finger that is concerning.  Within that split second of the needle passing through your skin you could be exposed to numerous bloodborne pathogens that could change your life. Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) are just some examples of pathogens that can be transmitted through sharps-related injuries.

So, what are some tips to prevent sharps-related injuries from occurring?

  • Train staff on appropriate usage and protocols when working with sharps.
  • Plan the procedure ahead of time and ensure the user has all necessary equipment prior to starting.
  • Only use needles that have built-in safety features that cannot be deactivated, such as self-retracting needles.
  • Reduce the use of needles by using needle-free IV systems or blunt-tip suture needles.
  • Focus on the task at hand when using sharps and avoid visual obstructions.
  • Needles should only be exposed when they are ready to be used and should be properly disposed of immediately after.
  • Keep the needle pointed away from the user and ensure the safety lock is in place immediately after completing the injection.
  • Do not remove gloves until all sharps are properly disposed of in a sharp’s container.
  • Take appropriate precautions when dealing with high-risk patients to avoid accidental needlesticks.
  • Inspect sharps containers to ensure they are no more than two-thirds full and replace the container if it is.
  • Avoid making contact with the sharps container when disposing of needles or syringes.
  • Keep track of all sharps and always double check trays, linens, and trash prior to handling.

If a needlestick injury does occur immediately follow the steps provided by NIOSH and report the injury to your supervisor.  You should also report the brand and type of needle that was used along with a detailed description of how it occurred. With this information we can better protect healthcare professionals by equipping them with the best tools for the job and educating them on safe practices. Check out NIOSH’s Stop Sticks Campaign for more information on what to do after a needlestick injury has occurred. 

So instead of giving needlesticks and sharing pathogens, let’s spend this holiday season giving gifts and sharing memories.  For more information regarding safe work practices check out CDC’s Injection Safety resources. All MEMIC Policyholders can also refer to MEMIC’s very own Safety Director for more information on how to make your healthcare facility safer for all employees.  

By Megan Pelletier