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How should healthcare workers deal with needlestick injuries?

Research has shown that nearly 400,000 needlestick injuries happen among healthcare workers, including nurses, each year. Health professionals are advised to take immediate action after the injuries to avoid developing further illnesses and also position the healthcare worker for financial compensation should that be necessary.
If you are a healthcare worker or nurse who has sustained a needlestick injury, you need to remain calm and follow the hospital’s protocols that are set for such cases. In most cases, depending on the type of exposure, the proper course of action to take includes:

  • Cleaning the wound
  • Reporting the event immediately to a supervisor
  • Performing blood tests
  • Seeking counseling
  • Seeking legal representation if applicable

Cleaning the Wound
After sustaining a needlestick injury, the individual needs to wash the affected area with soap and water immediately. It is encouraged to milk the injured area to assist with bleeding to ensure that if there are any viruses they do not get into the bloodstream. Cases where splashing is involved, the affected areas need to be irrigated as well.
Reporting the Workplace Injury
Healthcare workers are required to report needlestick injuries to their immediate supervisors after cleaning the wound. Either due to shock or confusion, many healthcare workers many fail to report these events, which is a huge mistake. Not reporting in a timely manner can delay the medical attention the healthcare worker should receive and also puts the worker in a difficult situation when pursuing financial compensation for damages.
Blood Tests and other Lab Work
At this point, healthcare workers are advised to comply with all examinations and treatments recommended by their doctors. Blood tests are highly recommended where cases of viral infection are suspected. All lab work reports should then be forwarded to the doctor who will determine the next course of action. If there is any sign of infection, treatment must begin immediately.
Seeking Counseling
Needlestick can be stressful and a healthcare worker can benefit greatly from professional counseling. This can be done while the worker is waiting for test results. It is important to ensure that the patient’s mental health as well. If you or a loved one is the patient, do not be afraid to speak freely because you have the right to confidentiality with a therapist. Do not be afraid that whatever you say could undermine a legal case.
Seeking Legal Representation
Needlestick injuries are categorized under workplace injuries and one may have the right to seek compensation depending on the damages inflicted. Nurses and healthcare workers are advised to seek legal representation early in the process. Before you seek any legal assistance, ensure that you avoid taking things into your own hands until legal representation becomes available. An experienced lawyer will then guide you through the needlestick injury case and help to determine the best strategy to obtain maximum compensation.
Important Note
As a healthcare worker, if you suffer from occupational needlestick injuries, you are required to immediately seek medical attention to avoid transmission of infectious diseases such as HCV, HBV, and HIV.

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