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Daily News: Needle-sticks Common in All Healthcare Settings

Sunday February 10, 2008
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Non-hospital-based registered nurses are about as likely at their hospital counterparts to be exposed to blood-borne pathogens through a needle-stick, according to a study done at Columbia University, New York.

Nearly 10% of more than 1,100 non-hospital RNs reported at least one needle-stick in the previous 12 months — about the same rate as hospital RNs, professor Robyn Gershon of the Mailman School of Public Health reported.

She said she was not surprised because “patient care, including more complex types of care, is increasingly delivered at … outpatient clinics, nursing homes, doctor’s offices, patients’ homes, and public health clinics” by well-trained RNs.

While more procedures involving needles and sharps are performed in hospitals, Gershon estimates non-hospital RNs account for at least 145,000 needle-sticks a year nationwide. About 70% of exposed nurses in the survey were not seen by a healthcare professional for the risk of infection — including for HIV and the hepatitis C and hepatitis B viruses — and 35% of incidents never were reported to administrators, she said.

“Fear of getting into trouble, not having enough time to report, and not knowing how to report an exposure were the three most common reasons given for not reporting,” Gershon said.

Regardless of the type of facility, she said she found similar needle-stick risk factors: heavy patient loads; long working hours; poor safety climate; inadequate training; and lack of safety devices.