Hazards of needle stick injuries in nurses are discussed. Hospital workers encounter numerous hazards in their work environment. Of particular concern is the spread of infection due to needle stick injuries sustained by hospital personnel in the course of routine practice. This workforce includes close to six million workers in the United States, yet hospitals have lagged behind industry in occupational health and safety programs directed toward their employees. Activities associated with needle stick injuries include improper disposal of needles into penetrable containers, recapping of needles, administration of medications, blood sampling, cleaning up procedure trays, and improper needle handling by other employees. Of major concern is exposure to hepatitis-B and non-A/non-B hepatitis infections, and, more recently, acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Other concerns include malaria, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tuberculosis, herpes simplex, Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, tetanus and syphilis. Studies reveal that many cases of needle stick injury go unreported. Steps to encourage reporting of such accidents are discussed. It is recommended that alternative methods of needle disposal be explored, that nurses in high risk areas be identified, and that studies be conducted to determine specific activities associated with needle stick injury. The role of the occupational health nurse in reporting such injuries and in implementing preventive measures is discussed.
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