22 October 2015

Sharps Injury concerns for Student Nurses

A sharps injury can be devastating to the health of the individual who receives it, causing the transmission of infections such as Hepatitis and HIV. In a 2008 survey, the RCN reported that 48% of those nurses who responded had experienced a sharps injury at some point in their career.

Plymouth University nursing lecturer and PhD researcher Kevin Hambridge (@SharpsSurvey) recently partnered with #NurChat to discuss sharps injuries experienced by student nurses and to find out more about the potential causes and impacts.

Many student nurses expressed their fears about possible sharps injuries, not just those acquired with needles but also shattered glass and sharp tools. Poor practice such as re-sheathing a needle after use was highlighted as a potential cause, however as part of his research Kevin discovered that almost 50% of sharps injuries experienced by student nurses happen in the simulation clinical skills lab. Several students felt that nerves, inexperience and sometimes complacency when handling sharps in the absence of real patients contributed to the risk of injury.

Disposal of sharps after use was one of the key times in their use that was identified as high risk. Sharps boxes too small to easily fit the used needle in, boxes overfilled or not within easy reach were three issues most frequently encountered.

The reporting of sharps injuries was also discussed as some #NurChat participants thought student nurses would be afraid of feeling like a failure or possible reprisals as a result of their injury such as losing marks on their placement. However, qualified staff may also feel the similar pressures in terms of their competency. Kevin Hambridge reported that some medical students have experienced post-traumatic stress disorder following a sharps injury, which is an indication of how seriously it can affect an individual.

According to the Health and Safety Executive, the first step of handling a sharps injury is to encourage the wound to bleed, which was echoed by many of the #NurChat participants who instinctively knew the approach to take. This suggests that awareness of managing the post-injury process is quite high but that more could be done to reinforce best practice in avoiding a sharps injury altogether.

Read the transcript of the full discussion on #NurChat here.

#NurChat returns on 27th October when we’ll be asking what more can be done to prevent avoidable pressure ulcers. Come along from 8pm UK time.