1. Monarch, Kammie RN, MS, JD


Inserting intravenous catheter lines, giving injections, handling and discarding sharps, and assisting with sterile procedures...these, and many other high-risk procedures are an ordinary part of the daily practice regimen for many nurses, especially those specializing in infusion therapy. In addition, nurses engaged in an infusion practice are subject to exposure to bloodborne diseases that can prove to be career-ending and fatal. Despite the frequency with which these high-risk procedures are performed, developing case law reveals the perils associated with these activities.


Courts around the country have dealt with a number of issues that may be of interest to nurses who start IV catheters, give injections, handle and discard sharps, and assist with sterile procedures. In addition, a growing number of cases are focusing on the rights and responsibilities of healthcare professionals and patients who have been exposed to blood and blood products. This article will explore a number of those issues: the distinction that courts make between nonclinicians and professionals who suffer needlestick injuries or who are exposed to blood and blood products; the intersection between needlestick injuries and exposure to blood and blood products and the worker's compensation system; product liability causes of action; and emotional distress causes of action filed by healthcare professionals and others. It is hoped that this information will be instructive, and that the issues discussed herein will be considered when practice expectations are identified. If that happens, the clinical environment can be safer for nurses and patients.