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Pandemic stress and lack of training leads to rise in sharps injuries

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Sharps injuries Worryingly more than 80% of respondents to the survey said they perceived the disease risk from sharps injuries as low

A new survey by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) shows that 15% of respondents suffered a sharps injury in 2020, 50% higher than when the survey was last carried out in 2008.

Reasons outlined in the survey for the rise include fatigue induced by the pandemic, low staffing levels, lack of training and safer sharps and sharps bins not being available. Nearly two-thirds of respondents to the survey said they had received at least one sharps injury during their careers. A quarter of mental health unit staff sustained sharps injuries in the last 12 months, as did 22% of care and nursing home staff.

Watch our webinar: Protect yourself from needlestick injuries

‘Most sharps injuries can be prevented and there are legal requirements on employers to take steps to prevent health care staff being exposed to infectious agents from sharps injuries,’ said Jude Diggins, RCN Interim Director of Nursing.

Blood and body fluid exposure has the potential to put health care workers at risk of infection, yet more than 80% of respondents to the survey said they perceived the disease risk from sharps injuries as low to nil. The survey also revealed that a quarter of respondents had no training on safe sharps use, and more than two in 10 had no education on reporting sharps injuries. Even after an injury, fewer than half attended a follow-up meeting, and 40% reported not receiving any medical advice.

‘In 2013 new regulations were brought in to reduce sharps injuries but these findings suggest there is still some way to go to protect all parts of the nursing workforce,’ said Rose Gallagher, RCN Professional Lead for Infection Prevention and Control.

Read more: Simple measures to avoid healthcare-associated infections

‘We now need to see greater efforts for better reporting and training to not only prevent injuries but to ensure there are stronger procedures to follow-up and protect nursing staff after injuries.’

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