Why Do Needlestick Injuries Still Haunt Us 10 Years after Protective Legislation?November 8, 2010
By Shawn Kennedy, AJN interim editor-in-chief
In 2008, a survey by the American Nurses Association (ANA) indicated that 64% of nurses reported a needlestick injury. That startling figure was reported by Marla Weston, CEO of the ANA, in her opening remarks last week when the ANA relaunched “Safe Needles Save Lives,” its campaign for use of safe needles in the workplace. The campaign originally launched ten years ago and was instrumental in passage of Public Law 106-430, the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act, which requires employers to “identify, evaluate, and make use of effective safer medical devices.” And while there have been inroads towards use of safer needle systems, the 2008 data show that much needs to be done.
Speaking from experience. Karen Daley, the ANA president, has long been a leader in advocating for safer needle systems. She sustained a needlestick injury while working in the ER a decade ago and contracted hepatitis and HIV infection. Her home state, Massachusetts, has been in the forefront of legislation. According to Angela Laramie from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, all hospitals in Massachusetts are mandated to use sharps injury prevention devices, maintain a log of any injuries, and submit an annual report to the state. Yet, state data show an average of 3,000 needlestick injuries yearly—and more than half of these are with devices that lack safe needle systems.
Why does this continue? Why can hospitals, clinics, and other workplaces that use sharps continue to not invest in safe devices when they are available and when, by law, their use is mandated? Nurses, does your workplace protect you from needlestick injuries?