Needlestick Safety Challenges Continue
Foley said the monograph should be only the beginning of a focus on worker safety.
"The focus on patient safety, including the National Patient Safety Goals, has contributed to efforts in leadership and staff to improve the quality of care. I would suggest The Joint Commission work closely with the occupational health community to identify national healthcare worker safety goals to guide a national conversation and guide healthcare leaders to attend to these priorities as well."
Needlestick prevention has typically been a topic for employee health professionals and those involved in the hospital's OSHA compliance efforts or human resources. Generally, the only ones using needles are staff, specifically clinicians. But as hospitals aim to become more patient-centric, with a cultural awareness of safety, many are beginning to realize the impact worker safety has on the overall healthcare environment, and patient safety in particular.
Often, hospitals find that staff who feel the hospital provides for their safety tend to provide safer care for patients. "If you have an employee injury and you have a patient injury, it really boils down to some of the same skill sets you need to address both," said Barbara Balik, RN, EdD, executive vice president for safety and quality systems at Allina Hospitals and Clinics, and an Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) "frontline improver" in Profiles in Improvement: Barbara Balik of Allina Hospitals and Clinics (published by the IHI).
Balik used the example of patient falls to explain her point. A patient who has fallen might have done so as an employee tried to help the patient get up. Often, employees are hurt trying to catch a patient as he or she falls. Or, in the case of sharps, general unsafe practices are just as likely to result in a sloppy handoff that causes an employee needlestick as reuse of a syringe that leads to a patient contracting a bloodborne illness. The cause might be an underlying culture of apathy regarding the proper use of this medical equipment.
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