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Is your OR holding out against sharps safety?
Surgeons, nurses push for safer devices
Amid the successes in sharps safety in hospitals in the 21st century, there is one glaring gap: the operating room. Sharps injuries there remain as much of a problem as they were in 2000, when the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act was signed into law. Needlesticks could put your facility at risk for costly lawsuits, particularly if safety devices are not being used.
Safety advocates, including some surgeons who have emerged as sharps safety champions, are hoping that the momentum is finally beginning to change.
"We do now have a critical mass to make some change," says Ramon Berguer, MD, FACS, chief of surgery at Contra Costa Regional Medical Center in Martinez, CA. "We have the data. We have second-generation devices that are well-made and well-marketed. We have the endorsement of leading surgical associations."
The American College of Surgeons (ACS) endorsed blunt suture needles, double-gloving, using a neutral zone for passing instruments, and other safety devices in the OR, although adoption of those safety efforts has been slow.
Berguer, a member of the ACS Committee on Perioperative Care, has been a vocal proponent of sharps safety in the OR. With Janine Jagger and Elayne Kornblatt Phillips of the International Healthcare Worker Safety Center, he co-authored an analysis of sharps injuries at 87 hospitals around the country from 1993 to 2006. It showed that sharps injuries actually rose by 6.7% in the OR while they declined by 31.6% elsewhere in the hospital.1
That information might be a turning-point in the effort to improve sharps safety in the OR. "It was very sobering," says Linda Groah, RN, MSN, CNOR, NEA-BC, FAAN, executive director and CEO of the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN). It caused the association to question, "What can we do to enforce the practices that we know make a difference?" she says.
AORN recently issued "A Call to Arms to Prevent Sharps Injuries in our ORs" through its AORN Journal.2 The association also plans to release a toolkit for reducing OR sharps injuries, which will be available on the web site (http://www.aorn.org/PracticeResources/ToolKits).
Two-thirds of sharps injuries in the OR are incurred by nurses and surgical technicians, according to data from the center's Exposure Prevention Information Network (EPINet). Berguer says, "Decisions made by one member of the team affect the risk of other members of the team. To me, that's the key leverage point I'm taking to my colleagues."
(For more information on how to address needlesticks within your facility, see story, right.)