Approximately 600,000 to 1,000,000 needlestick injuries occur each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Workers in the healthcare industry are most at risk of occupational transmission of bloodborne pathogens such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). However, workers do not always report their needlestick injuries; several studies have concluded that underreporting among healthcare workers is common.
Healthcare Workers at Risk for Needlestick Injuries
Nearly six out of ten needlestick injuries are not reported, according to a recent study. There were 1010 nurse participants in the study, 580 of whom had experienced a needlestick injury in the past 12 months. The study included a self-administered questionnaire designed to determine the prevalence of needlestick injuries and the level of reporting among injured nurses.
One of the questions asked participants why they did not report their needlestick injury incident and the most common reasons included:
Avoiding negative influence on employment/firing
Being too busy at the time of the injury
Fearing the diseases to which they were potentially exposed
Lack of knowledge that needlestick injuries must be reported
Not knowing how to report needlestick incidents
Thinking that the injury was not important enough to report
Underreporting Remains an Issue in Various Professions
Other studies have also found underreporting to be common among interventional radiology physicians, laboratory personnel, and medical students. One study published in the Radiology journal revealed that underreporting is common among interventional radiologists. According to the study, workers in this field experience an estimated incidence of 0.2 needlestick injuries per year of practice.
Of the 850 participants surveyed who sustained needlestick injuries, only 566 (66 percent) reported their injuries. Three-quarters did not notify their significant other about their injury and more women (79 percent) than men (67 percent) reported their injury. Common reasons for not reporting included perceived:
Lack of utility
Perceived low risk of injury
Non contamination of the needle
Lengthy reporting process
Interventional radiology is a nonsurgical alternative that only recently became an option; therefore, the study’s authors conclude, workers in this field are at increased risk due to insufficient training and lack of familiarity with reporting procedures.
Medical Students Also at Risk for Needlestick Injuries
Another study published in the Academic Medicine journal found that nearly half of the participant surgeons in training who sustained needlestick injuries as medical students did not report their injury to an employee health office.
The study’s authors cite cumbersome reporting procedures, desire to avoid negative evaluations by superiors, and embarrassment for the lack of reporting among medical students. According to an associate professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and lead researcher for the study, students are placed in high-risk situations too early. All of the studies conclude that further efforts are necessary to train healthcare workers on prevention best practices and encourage the reporting of needlestick injuries.