Masters Thesis

What is the impact of needlestick and sharps injuries among hospital staff in the U.S.?

The topic explored in this study pertains to needlestick and sharps occupational injuries among hospital staff in the United States. Health care workers are exposed to over 20 blood-borne pathogens in their work environment. In their attempt to help patients, health care workers may find themselves injured with high risks of contracting deadly or harmful pathogens such as Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) during their work-shifts while performing a needlestick or sharps procedure to help a patient. Several factors contribute to needlestick and sharps occupational injuries; however, common causes have been linked to devices used, hospital settings, scheduled shifts, experience, stress, absence of safety culture within the organization, and lack of education and training for the hospital staff. Of all the occupations involved within hospital organizations, nurses were the highest profession to experience the most needlestick and sharps injuries from contaminated tools and devices. The highest prevalence of their injuries occurred in patient rooms, surgical units, and emergency wards. Since the establishment of the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act of 2001, revisions were implemented to minimize the number of health care works from injuries, which included newly-engineered devices to prevent occupational needlestick and sharps injuries. With this new federal law placed in the United States, research studies found that injures pertaining to needlestick and sharps in health care settings have decreased in patient rooms; however, has increased among nurses and doctors in surgical units. Hospital staff that are involved in needlestick and sharps injuries perceive patients as low-risk if the patient does not present symptoms or have diagnostic test results indicating the presence of viruses or diseases such as HIV. Hospital staff, specifically nurses, continue to place themselves in risk of transmitting dangerous pathogens as they are unaware that harmful viruses such as HIV can take several months to over a year for its seroconversions to be presented in the patient’s diagnostic tests or have noticeable symptoms. While reported cases are logged with the hospitals Injury Illness and Prevention Program (IIPP) department, many cases go unreported. Hospital staff may not disclose their needlestick or sharps injury for several reasons to include cost and reputation among colleagues. Those that report their injuries are provided with treatment and care to ensure all safety precautions are given to the employee. Costs in treating these injuries vary as some may require leave of work time due to transmission of harmful viruses or diseases. Workers’ compensation benefits are provided for those that need more time off from work to heal as they may have contracted a virus or is experiencing stress as they wait for interval tests to determine their fate in contracting a blood-borne pathogen or not. Education and training can help minimize injuries related to needlestick and sharps among hospital staff in the United States. Health care administrators, and other health care managers, can train employees in the hospitals policies and safety culture. Hospital staff should be monitored by health care managers to ensure that all prevention and intervention steps are being adhered to according to the federal, state, and organizations laws and policies. Hospitals can minimize their costs, and penalties, by ensuring all their hospital employees are in compliance with Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) standards. As rare as transmission of harmful viruses and diseases have been, with a low-number of confirmed cases, health care professionals are negatively affected by needlestick and sharps injuries, specifically nurses as they are exposed and are at high-risk of contracting any blood-borne pathogen. Hospital administrators, and managers, must ensure the safety of their staff in order to avoid work-related injuries and poor patient care.

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