Needle sticks are very common in the healthcare field. Unfortunately, nurses are the majority of people who get stuck by needles in the hospital setting. The ANA (American Nurse Association) has been working to decrease this problem by encouraging hospitals to switch to needleless devices.
However, some items in a hospital setting can not be changed to a needle-free device. For instance, subcutaneous injections for insulin or intramuscular injections for vaccines require a needle for administration. Granted, most of these devices have safety technology that protects the nurse from a needle stick, but sometimes these safety features are not used correctly.
Nurses can get stuck not only from using safety devices incorrectly but from the careless mistakes from other healthcare workers as well. I have heard horror stories of nurses cleaning out a patient’s bed and getting stuck with a dirty needle, or disposing a needle in the sharps box and getting poked by a dirty needle because the sharps container was too full.
Needle sticks are scary! If you have ever experienced one, you know it is the worst feeling in the world, especially if you know that your patient has a contagious bloodborne disease such as HIV or hepatitis.
So what do you do if you are stuck by a needle?
If you are stuck by a needle, you need to follow these steps:
1.) Stop what you are doing immediately! If you can’t leave a patient, get someone else to cover for you.
2.) Clean the affected areas with soap and water, or follow the cleaning protocols set by your facility.
3.) Follow your hospital’s or work setting protocol for needle stick injuries. This usually includes: calling your house supervisor, team member health, or nurse manager; completing the proper paperwork for an employee injury; submitting a urine drug test; informing the patient’s doctor so the proper blood work can be ordered; getting the patient’s consent for HIV testing; and having your blood drawn for preliminary results. Blood tests can include: HIV, hepatitis C, hepatitis B, ALT function (liver function).
4.) If the patient has a positive result for HIV or hepatitis, you might be started on prophylaxis drugs and will be required to get repeated blood draws to check for HIV and hepatitis because this disease will not show up for months if you have contracted them.