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Just the other day the evening news featured a story on childhood immunization practices, complete with camera footage of a nurse administering "a shot" to a child without using personal protective equipment. No gloves! Just a bare hand on the needle, shown on network television during prime time viewing hours. How many healthcare consumers did that message reach?
The newscaster made no mention of this glaring error, focusing instead on the value of urban vaccination programs. In this era of increased attention to patients' and healthcare workers' needs, the irony of this example was not lost on me. Despite the best efforts of needlestick injury awareness groups, healthcare facilities' work practice controls, and advanced industrial engineering to make safer equipment, needlestick injury prevention still is not a priority for all healthcare professionals.
Intravenous nurse specialists encounter the risk of needlestick injury on a daily or even hourly basis. It is our responsibility to recognize the risk and be proactive in preventing these injuries. As we all know, these injuries are critical issues in healthcare today. The situation becomes more dire when we consider the related complications: seroconversion to human immunodeficiency virus, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C, to name a few of the potential outcomes, affecting not only the injured healthcare professional but also his or her colleagues and family members. Work time and sick leave lost during treatment periods. High costs of injury and illness. The toll of emotional stress. Health insurance and workers' compensation usage. Retraining and possible permanent replacement of the affected healthcare professional. Loss of livelihood and the professional's tremendous investment in his or her career. Loss of qualified professionals in the workplace. Loss of life. The list goes on and on.
Gloves, gowns, goggles, and other personal protective equipment (PPE) are standard issue in healthcare settings. Why do some of our colleagues neglect to use them? Every facility should recognize the value of needle-safe devices, such as retractable needles, shielded syringes, and other specially engineered safety equipment. Work practice controls can be altered to provide a safe work environment for all healthcare professionals-using PPE, not recapping needles, pilot-testing new equipment, and contributing to purchasing decisions ought to be second nature to IV nurse specialists and all healthcare professionals. Ongoing surveillance and evaluation in the workplace, combined with professional development in-services and constant dialogue about the importance of safety precautions would go far in creating safer work environments for all healthcare professionals and their patients.
You can improve the statistics by reaching for your PPE before you reach for the patient. Be aware of needle safety issues and pending legislation related to healthcare worker safety. Take advantage of opportunities to provide input into product design and purchasing decisions. Set the example for safety and awareness in your workplace and challenge your colleagues to do the same.
If that television camera crew had filmed you on the job, would you have been wearing gloves? Or would you have appeared before thousands of viewers, putting yourself at risk for the potentially devastating consequences of needlestick injury?
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