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Needlestick, sharps injuries may lead to serious complications

On Behalf of | Mar 8, 2024 | Workers' Compensation

Needlestick and sharps injuries pose notable risks to the health and safety of health care workers. These injuries occur when a needle or other sharp object punctures or cuts a health care worker’s skin.

Understanding the potential complications associated with needlestick and sharps injuries helps health care workers take appropriate precautions and seek medical attention when necessary.

Bloodborne pathogen transmission

A possible complication of needlestick and sharps injuries is the risk of transmission of bloodborne pathogens. Some such pathogens include hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus and human immunodeficiency virus. When a health care worker sustains an injury from a contaminated sharp object, there is a potential for the transfer of infectious blood or bodily fluids into his or her bloodstream. This can increase the risk of infection. Prompt identification and evaluation of the source patient can reduce the risk of bloodborne pathogen transmission. So, too, can post-exposure prophylaxis and follow-up testing,

Psychological distress and anxiety

Needlestick and sharps injuries can also have psychological consequences. They may cause feelings of distress and anxiety. The uncertainty surrounding the risk of bloodborne pathogen transmission and the need for follow-up testing can exacerbate stress and anxiety levels. It can also impact mental well-being and work performance. Health care workers may also experience heightened levels of vigilance and hypervigilance regarding infection control practices. This can lead to burnout and decreased job satisfaction.

Occupational disruption and financial burden

Health care workers may need time off work for medical evaluation, treatment and follow-up testing after sharps injuries. Health care workers may struggle to fulfill their professional responsibilities and earn income. The cost of medical evaluation, testing and treatment can also impose a major financial burden on health care workers. This is especially true for those without adequate insurance coverage or access to employee assistance programs.

Implementing comprehensive safety protocols can reduce the risk of needlestick injuries and protect the health and safety of frontline health care workers. Timely reporting and management of these injuries can also help prevent potential complications.