Foley also noted that although needlestick injuries cost hospitals money, victims of needlesticks often experience fear and anxiety about the possible consequences of an exposure. Victims can also lose time from work, or even become involved in litigation with the hospital.
According to a poll on Safe in Common's website, 42% of visitors believe that developing better injection devices is the most important action to take to help improve injection safety, while 35% believe greater awareness of the issue is most important.
Opportunity to combine worker, patient safety efforts
Sharps safety is also part of a larger discussion among healthcare leaders and professionals about what a culture of safety means, and whether it means combining all healthcare safety efforts, such as employee, environmental, and patient safety. Much of the time, the efforts for improvement are similar across all categories, requiring the same culture in the same care environment.
A recent Joint Commission monograph, Improving Patient and Worker Safety, released November 19, 2012, is intended to be an informational guide on how worker and patient safety correlate and can be integrated. It states that "a culture of safety-and the organization leaders who create and sustain it-will not be considered legitimate and genuine if the culture excludes some groups within the organization." The monograph urges hospitals to understand that adverse events and near misses that endanger one group of people at the hospital-for example, patients-often endanger another group, such as staff. Because the root cause is usually process- or communication-related, such problems are often culturally ingrained in the overall work environment and, therefore, are likely to affect and possibly endanger everyone.
Sharps safety is included in the monograph. In a table that explains how certain safety issues affect both healthcare workers and patients-Table 1-3: Topic Areas for Interventions to Improve Safety and Examples of Potential Benefits to Patients, Staff, and Organizations-the benefit of improving sharps safety to both patient and worker is a decreased exposure to bloodborne pathogens. The benefits to the healthcare organization include decreased workers' compensation claims and insurance costs, decreased litigation, and an improved safety culture.
"I would like to commend The Joint Commission for inclusion of provider safety in their monograph and call for greater focus in their accreditation and inspection process," said Foley. "Sharps containers and some other sharps-related items are included in the Environment of Care section [of the Comprehensive Accreditation Manual for Hospitals], but there has been inadequate attention paid to the culture of safety and device selection processes in the last few years."