Radiologist Aims to Prevent Needlesticks, Invents Safety Device


The Safety Shield in action.

Radiologist Dr. Bruce Hedgepeth of St. John's, part of Sisters of Mercy Health System, knew there had to be a better way to prevent himself and his colleagues from a common health care workplace danger -- accidental needlesticks.

Needlestick injuries are hazardous for healthcare workers due to the risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens, including hepatitis and HIV. These injuries not only cause physical pain, but also lasting emotional and psychological stress to the employee.

Its a problem so prevalent that the federal government passed a law requiring safer syringes and blood-drawing devices in medical facilities across the nation. But still, 10 years after the passage of the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act, a 2008 study by the American Nurse Association showed nearly two-thirds of nurses reported being accidentally stuck. And a recent study shows that injuries actually have increased 6.5 percent in surgical settings.

Hedgepeths idea was to create a device that provides a physical, protective barrier between the needle and the holders hand. He took that idea to Mercy Research and Development (R&D). The R&D team works closely with clinicians and co-workers to identify areas of patient care that could be improved and strives to create innovative, affordable solutions. Together with Mercy R&Ds multidisciplinary team, Hedgepeth invented Safety Shield, a patent-pending device that protects the holder of the medication vial from the needle.

To use the Safety Shield, the healthcare worker simply slides the vial into the shield, clicks it into place in the locking channel, and it is ready to use, with fingers safely behind the protective barrier. The integrated features of the Safety Shield remove and secure the "flip-off" cap without touching the rubber septum area, leaving it clean and ready for immediate use. This simple "Slide, Click, Go" method makes the Safety Shield a quick addition to improve the safety of procedures.

Safety Shield was specifically designed to prevent injuries in high risk areas such as the emergency room, interventional medicine and radiology, while not adding time to methods already in place. These areas are where the device is currently being tested at St. Johns Hospital. Mercy R&Ds unique model of being integrated with a healthcare system allows devices to be tested by end users, insuring the product is meeting a clinical need.

"Many products focus on covering the needle when not in use, but fail to provide protection when the needle is in action," Hedgepeth explains. "The Safety Shield focuses on the healthcare professional by protecting his or her hand from a stick, while holding a medication vial."

Mercy Health System is the eighth largest Catholic healthcare system in the U.S. and serves more than 3 million people annually. Mercy includes 28 hospitals, more than 200 outpatient facilities, 36,000 co-workers and 1,400 integrated physicians in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Mercy also has outreach ministries in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

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