Described as frequently occurring events that can have serious negative outcomes, needle or "sharps" injuries are declining in hospitals—though very slowly for doctors, according to a report in the journal Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology.
'Sharps' injuries decline for docs, nurses
The report cites a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that estimated that some 384,000 sharps injuries occur among healthcare workers each year and that such injuries have been associated with the transmission of hepatitis B and C viruses, HIV and more than 20 other pathogens.
Researchers with the Massachusetts public-health department's Occupation Health Surveillance Program and the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston reviewed reports of the 16,158 sharps injuries among employees at 76 Massachusetts acute-care hospitals and found that injuries decreased 22% during the study period, or about 4.7% on an annual basis.
This decline corresponded with the development of injury-prevention features in the design of syringes and winged-steel and hypodermic needles, the researchers noted. But although nurse sharps injuries declined by about 7.2% a year, they declined by less than 1% a year among doctors.
The researchers concluded that the continued used of devices without available engineered safety protections "needs to be addressed" and that further study is needed to determine whether injuries involving devices with prevention features were the result of design flaws or lack of training and experience.
In addition, suture needles with safety features are not widely available, the researchers wrote, and doctors are injured more frequently than nurses by these. Nurses were more likely to be injured by hypodermic needles and syringes.
According to the report, the healthcare industry is Massachusetts' largest employer, providing some 490,000 jobs, 38% of which involve working in hospitals.
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