Infection Control Today - 05/2002: Sharps Safety

Infection Control Today magazines virtual roundtable on sharps safety

ICP Medical/Bio-Plexus
10486 Baur Court
Saint Louis, Mo. 63132
(314) 429-1000, Ext. 22
Fax (314) 429-8626

Infection Control Today: While the Needlestick Prevention Act of 2000 helped raise awareness of sharps injuries among healthcare workers, do you think the legislation had a quantifiable impact on reducing incidences overall?

Bio-Plexus: Reducing incidents of sharps injuries to healthcare workers is linked to two areas, the device they use and the approach and attention to the implementation of these devices. They are not mutually exclusive events and even the best product can fail if the implementation and follow-up is not owned and focused on by the facility. I can share that using the Bio-Plexus technology in blood collection in facilities across the United States has quickly reduced and, in many cases, eliminated needlestick injuries in this high-risk type of needle.

Infection Control Today: What can be done in hospitals to realistically safeguard healthcare workers from sharps injuries?

Bio-Plexus: More hospitals are evaluating products appropriately. Where we see projects like this fall down is in the message, or lack thereof, from the top. Senior management must be vocally and visibly in support of these initiatives or decisions and implementations dont take hold. A safety device takes time to get used to; people will grumble unless they know from the top that this is the decision and they need to adapt in spite of themselves. Routine surprise audits of departments including in-service records, technique observation and sharps container checks for activated devices are all useful tools to help safeguard staff.

Infection Control Today: As a manufacturer, how are you better able to engineer sharps to help mitigate or eradicate the possibility of occupational exposure?

Bio-Plexus: The best engineered sharp to eradicate the possibility of occupational exposure would be a device that it is completely passive and feels similar to what healthcare worker is used to. In some applications, this is more difficult than others to achieve. If it is not currently feasible for an existing application, then the manufacturer must have an excellent implementation program to ensure optimal use of the current design. We also rely on continuous discussions with customers to determine new product opportunities to help us design and manufacture products that will continually reduce the risk of occupational exposure.

Infection Control Today: The most effectively designed sharps safety device wont do its job unless healthcare workers know how to use it properly. What kind of staff education and training would you advocate?

Bio-Plexus: At Bio-Plexus we believe it is critical to have staff learn new products in a dedicated timeframe and location. Personally, I always heard better, and learned better, in training sessions conducted in classrooms or break rooms versus standing at the nurses station trying to listen while seeing the physician I needed to write an order walking off the floor or a patients monitor alarm going off. Another critical tool is the development of super-users; clinicians who develop a high level of expertise with the product and can help others overcome some of the change issues inherent with any new technology.

Infection Control Today: What should a healthcare worker look for when evaluating a sharps safety device for use?

Bio-Plexus: Change is difficult for most humans and, during evaluations, we have observed healthcare workers focused, both consciously and unconsciously, on how different a product is from what they use now. Instead, they should think about the situations where they have been, or have come close to being, injured and ask themselves, Can this product protect me in that situation? Obviously a product cannot be so cumbersome it challenges them in every procedure, but they need to acknowledge that some level of adjustment will be necessary in order to decrease their long-term risk of injury and focus on the products innate safety capability.

Infection Control Today: What would you say to the hospital administrator who balks at the cost of exchanging conventional sharps for protective devices?

Bio-Plexus: Hospital administrators, while not uncaring with regard to HCW safety, have to be concerned with the financial health of their organization. Presenting them with facts about the costs, actual or potential, of needlestick injuries versus the increased cost of safety devices is a powerful argument. One needlestick can wind up costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars instead of 10 percent to 15 percent more than their current cost. Is that a financial risk they want to take? Is that a message they want their staff to hear, that their lives are worth the gamble of not using safety devices? Usually not.

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