This article appears in the March 2013 issue of Patient Safety Monitor Journal.
Clinicians use needles, syringes, and related products every day to care for their patients. These devices carry inherent risk and, if not used and disposed of properly, pose a safety threat to clinicians, patients, and housekeeping, to name a few.
On November 6, 2000, the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act was signed into law, and since then, there has been a significant decrease in sharps injuries. However, a coalition called Safe in Common is working hard to reinitiate safety efforts around sharps, believing that the healthcare environment has become complacent, and that even though sharps injuries have declined, consequences of injuries are still quite serious.
Safe in Common is a nonprofit dedicated to making the healthcare working environment safe from the risk of needlestick injury. It offers visitors the chance to take "the needlestick safety pledge," vowing "to support Safe in Common in its campaign to promote and strengthen the Federal Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act, raise awareness of needlestick safety, and utilize safer engineering controls to protect me and my fellow healthcare personnel from unnecessary needlestick injuries."
According to Safe in Common's website, 5.6 million healthcare personnel in the United States lack access to safety-engineered medical devices that can fully protect them from occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens such as HIV and hepatitis C.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the FDA, and state and federal legislation have all provided mandates and guidelines for sharps injury prevention in healthcare over the past 30 years. But according to expert Mary Foley, RN, PhD, former president of the American Nurses Association and current Safe in Common chair, although progress has been made, there are still problems to address.
"We recognize that there has been significant progress in safety, but we've also heard from nurses and students, housekeepers, patients, and visitors that they still have concerns for sharps safety and injury prevention," says Foley.