My friend Shannon just finished her first semester of nursing school. Recently she and her classmates were in the lab at school, learning to give injections by practising on sponges. She took a first stab at giving a needle – and ended up slashing her thumb.
She wrote on Facebook: “Got my first nursing injury in lab on Friday. Slashed my thumb open with an intramuscular (big) needle. The funny, and embarrassing, part is that I did this while pulling the cap off the new, unused syringe. Apparently uncapping a new syringe takes less muscular oomph than I thought. Doh.”
Thankfully the needle hadn’t been used, and the cut on her thumb healed quickly.
“Obviously if you stick yourself with a needle you’ve used on someone that’s really bad,” she said. “For the needlestick injuries, there’s really specific protocols if you are ever exposed to blood or body fluids, either by getting stuck with a needle or getting splashed in the eye or cut on your skin. You pretty much stop work, fill out a report, go to the emergency room, get a bunch of tests, get put on antivirals maybe.”
This reminded me of a nurse I interviewed for the Sept/Oct 2007 issue of WorkSafe Magazine. She told me how she stabbed herself in the thigh with a used needle and then drove herself to the emergency room in a panic.
“I was absolutely in shock and trying to get there on autopilot. It was just so unreal,” she told me in 2007. “It’s not something you should have to figure out for yourself. When it happens to you, you can’t think straight.”
Now, in 2010, it’s good to see this topic of needlestick protocol is being covered at the early student phase, rather than not at all.