Friday, April 1, 2011

Preventing Injuries in the Health Care Setting

Today's blog entry is an article by Kathryn A. Swink, MPH, CPHQ, Research Associate to the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems.

Each year, nearly 385,000 health care personnel working in hospitals are exposed to bloodborne pathogens like HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C, as a result of inadvertent needlestick and sharps injuries. Fortunately, the risk of disease transmission following a sharps injury is relatively low. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • the risk of Hepatitis B infection is between 6 and 30 percent following a sharps exposure. However, immunization via the hepatitis B vaccine makes infection virtually impossible.
  • the risk of Hepatitis C infection is between 1.5 and 2 percent for those exposed.
  • the risk of HIV infection is roughly 0.3 percent following a sharps exposure.

Although the risk of developing an infection is rare, hospitals across the country, including members of the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems (NAPH), actively work to prevent sharps injuries among their patients and healthcare personnel. One of the most important ways of preventing sharps injuries among healthcare personnel is through education, not only in the methods to prevent an injury, but also in the necessary precautions that should be followed if an exposure occurs.

The CDC has a very informative webpage on “Sharps Safety for Healthcare Settings” with helpful education and training materials and tools to plan and implement “Sharps Safety” programs in the healthcare setting. Additionally, you can check out some of the educational materials about occupational hazards, including sharps injuries provided to employees of NAPH member Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio.

Knowledge of safety precautions is key to preventing sharps injuries and exposure to infections. During National Public Health Week, remember the old saying, “No safety, know pain; know safety, no pain.”

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