How much harm can a small stick from a needle really do?
If you’re a nurse, phlebotomist or another kind of worker who works around needles in a hospital, clinic or medical lab, the potential for harm is tremendous. Aside from the physical risk of disease from blood-borne pathogens, there’s a massive psychological impact on anyone who has to wait weeks or months for tests to confirm whether or not they’ve been infected by something.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), studies more than a decade apart indicate that needle sticks are a common occurrence — despite all the precautions workers take. As many as 839 per 1000 medical workers will experience a needle stick injury at some point in their career. Once it happens, the only thing that you can do is try to mitigate your risks as much as possible.
Because post-exposure prophylactic medications need to be administered within hours in order to be effective, the first thing an injured worker needs to do is wash the injury with soap and water and make a report.
If at all possible, it’s then important to identify the patient on whom the needle was previously used in order to evaluate him or her for diseases and have serological testing done. Some of the main concerns after a needle stick injury include exposure to:
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- Hepatitis B (HBV)
- Hepatitis C (HCV)
However, there are a host of other potentially transmittable diseases as well that have to be considered. The deeper the injury from the needle, the greater the risk you face.
Under no circumstances should you ever ignore or fail to report a needle stick injury. As difficult as it is to think past the moment once you’ve been stuck, you need to be conscious of your future needs. Should you become infected, you want to be able to prove the connection between your job and your injury.
If you’re a medical worker who has been stuck by a contaminated needle, find out more about your legal rights and options today.