We know this article, while anecdotal, will potentially offend and or annoy some readers. It is our intent to get a dialog going, along with possible solutions to a glaring failure by both Regulatory bodies, as well as professional organizations, as in the end the injured parties themselves show little willingness to stand up for their own safety in the work environment. Of course, I am speaking about ‘sharps’ injuries from scalpel blades, suture needles among other sharps items used in the Operating room. I travel around the country giving CE Units to O.R. Nurses on Sharps issues. I always open my talks with the question ‘has anyone here, had a sharps injury? Years ago, no one would respond. The sounds of crickets were overwhelming. In the past three years braver souls have come forward and responded yes. These included Nurses that acquired HIV and or Hepatitis C in the Operating Room.
When asked if they reported the injury over 60% had not. More on this later on in the article. There have been many articles over the years discussing sharps injuries. To a degree, certainly for needle sticks the numbers of incidences have improved, however sharps in the O.R. remain a major issue and a growing one.
Consistently on the rise in the USA. (6% a year growth.)This is just unacceptable. With all of the technology available to avoid cuts from scalpels, suture needles etc. Nurses and Surgical Technologists continue to be in harms way with no apparent action on the part of most healthcare providers to protect one of the most valuable assets a system has; their people. While we might be able to understand the financial justifications offered for the reluctance of a healthcare system in not treating these injuries as a priority, one cannot condone this action. We all know that prevention saves money in the mid and long run. This is a key tenant of healthcare: stopping smoking, treating hypertension, vaccination programs (when did you last see a case of polio?).
What is not understandable is why staff do not lobby for their own safety. Staff wouldn’t sit down and accept poor patient safety! When asked most of the nurses regularly surveyed on this issue respond with, the hospital does not want to increase costs without a realistic benefit. In the time of COVID losing staff should be considered a real negative. Retaining Staff free of Hepatitis C, HIV, fear distress, anxiety, or depression certainly from a financial point of view and a moral one must be a consideration. Anyone witnessing a sharps injury is appalled and scared for the injured party. The injured will spend months to a year concerned by the potential consequences of the injury, not knowing if they have been unlucky. I know of at least two O.R. Supervisors that have acquired Hep C and HIV in the O.R. unpublished data , personal communication. Cost in short is relative. Losing Staff availability, even if only a few hours is costly, while they go for blood draws, wait to be seen. What effect does the injury occurrence have on their productivity and morale. What lingering, psychological and physical effects are there????? Would you agree that the healthcare provider has a responsibility to insure your safety. OSHA certainly believes they do. But if you do not, as a handler of Sharps devices, care enough to require safety precautions be put in place, why should the system? For that matter, just showing the statistical history from ISIPS should get the ball rolling. But in the end, you are responsible for your own safety. Only you can effect real change. Safety is a shared responsibility. Your patients certainly want you safe, you must want this as well and not depend alone on the Healthcare provider. Perhaps we all should be lobbying for a safer environment by whatever means are available.
It is our belief that only you can effect change in this environment. You are responsible for your own safety. Only you can effect change. A great place to begin is understanding the statistical grounds describing much of what has been described in this article. We invite comments that will be published in a coming release. For Educators ISIPS (http://isips.org/contact-us/) remains a front-line source of information on how serious the problem of safety really is. We encourage you to review the https://internationalsafetycenter.org website and suggest to some of your suppliers that it is worthwhile for them to be supportive of ISIPS to bolster and backup the seriousness of Sharps Injuries and how they may relate to their product line.
It is frustrating to be constantly reminded of how little thought is put into staff safety. Be a force for change. Protection for all has to be the goal. Making the system aware of what the costs are in people, morale, staff retention and fines avoidance is important. Nothing is more important than your health! Bea Crusader for everyone. Understand the law, your rights. In future editorial’s I will go into detail here on OSHA, your rights, and suggested strategies to keep you safe.
Comments should be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org orAFBrack@orsafe.org.