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Prevention of needlesticks and sharps injuries continues to be a hot topic for nurses. In the July issue, we offered five ways to avoid this dangerous situation. Now, we offer five more useful tips for preventing needlesticks and sharps injuries.
Numerous evidence-based research studies support the use of safer devices, such as blunt suture needles and work practice controls, such as double-gloving.1,2 Wearing two pairs of surgical gloves has two benefits: protecting the patient from surgical site infections and protecting the surgical staff from bloodborne pathogen exposure. When two pairs of gloves are worn, the inner glove is less likely to be perforated.2 Research also supports double-gloving to help reduce the risk of surgical site infections.2 Using a neutral zone to minimize the potential for injury when passing sharps is another safe handling practice. Be sure that team members are aware of this evidence and present it in a succinct manner in locations where they'll have time to read it, such as at the scrub sink, in the lounge, or on the OR door.
The Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act requires an annual evaluation of safety-engineered devices.3 Industry partners are continually improving these devices, such as safety scalpels and blunt suture needles, and are also developing alternatives to reduce the sharps needed to perform surgery and close wounds.4
Use hands-free techniques for passing sharps, and establish a neutral zone to place sharp items in when passing between team members.5 Always know the location of sharps on the sterile field, and use a "sharps handoff" communication. Use an instrument to pick up sharps and a one-handed scoop technique if recapping needles is necessary. Minimize the use of sharps instruments when clinically acceptable.
Promoting a positive message is key to the success of a sharps safety program. Ensure the message to reduce or eliminate sharps injuries is delivered in a positive way-the goal is the safety of perioperative team members and patients.
If prevention methods fail and a sharps injury occurs, be sure that it's reported. Leaders who demonstrate true concern for the health, welfare, and safety of their staff will promote an environment that encourages reporting of exposures and sharps injuries. Be sure team members know and value the importance of reporting sharps injuries as soon as possible and to facilitate timely testing.
1. Parantainen A, Verbeek JH, Lavoie MC, Pahwa M. Blunt versus sharp suture needles for preventing percutaneous exposure incidents in surgical staff. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011;(11):CD009170. [Context Link]
2. Tanner J, Parkinson H. Double gloving to reduce surgical cross-infection. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2006;(3):CD003087. [Context Link]
3. Public Law 106-430 Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act. 2000. U.S. Government Printing Office. http://http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-106publ430/html/PLAW-106publ430.htm. [Context Link]
4. Makary MA, Pronovost PJ, Weiss ES, et al. Sharpless surgery: a prospective study of the feasibility of performing operations using non-sharp techniques in an urban, university-based surgical practice. World J Surg. 2006;30(7):1224-1229. [Context Link]
5. Stringer B, Haines AT, Goldsmith CH, Berguer R, Blythe J. Is use of the hands-free technique during surgery, a safe work practice, associated with safety climate. Am J Infect Control. 2009;37(9):766-772. [Context Link]
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