As I travel around the USA giving talks and CE seminars on sharps safety, I am struck by the changes in perception on sharps injuries. Many of my attendees from CE seminars comment that there is not only increased awareness of sharps safety, but also a willingness to be open about past injuries.
Two years ago participants in CE seminars were reluctant to admit they had ever had a needle stick or scalpel blade cut. Now, when asked, quite a few nurses will raise their hands and attest to a past injury. That is really great news, as until the problem is openly discussed it cannot be remedied.
Recently an Operating Room supervisor told me she had acquired HIV/Hep C in the O.R., and was still suffering from the trauma, treatment and general fear of on-going issues with these disease states. Her job was effected, her home life certainly so, and her professional future remains a concern. You have to admire someone who shares such an experience and then becomes proactive in insuring that other nurses in her department do not suffer the same experience.
They say insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different outcomes; and yet we all are guilty of this. Habit is probably the single largest source of errors that contribute to continuing injuries in the operating room. A Tech once told me that ‘he was trained not to cut himself’, of course this implied that everyone that was not a Tech were subject to blade injuries. This is his excuse not to change!
So what is the solution to potential injuries in the O.R. from scalpel blades or needle sticks? Education and training have certainly helped, but neither is enough. Culture and attitudes have to change. By change, the dynamics in the O.R. must become not only focused on the patient’s well being, but also on staff. Whether you use a passive device for needles or a single-handed blade remover, you have an OSHA mandate to comply. Perhaps an ombudsman might need to be ‘unofficially’ appointed to bring change in culture and practice. In either case, whether you the practitioner or an ombudsman in your facility is appointed, safety in handling sharps is your responsibility.
Government can mandate change, but only you can practice it!
Allan Brack is a trained biologist having worked with Department of Defence (DOD) across many roles from running a hematology lab to advising hospitals on devices and uses of technology in the hospital setting. He also was one of the original founders of the Dinamap Blood Pressure device, as well as a major contributor to the growth of Auto-Syringe and Oximetrix, now a part of Abbott laboratories. He has extensive experience and knowledge in medical device regulations, and is the US Training and Education Consultant for Qlicksmart.