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Obstacles to accurate NSI information

August 29, 2014

Organisations in medical settings, and the professionals that work within them, know the best way of reducing the risk that healthcare workers are exposed to is having accurate information and statistics. This allows large hospitals to focus on specific areas or departments where they know the members of staff are at the highest levels of risk, based on the facts presented. 

This ensures healthcare organisations are spending their finances in the correct areas, while also preventing staff from being injured in the workplace. However, for needlestick injuries the solution isn't as simple as this. 

Various pieces of research suggest that the information and data surrounding percutaneous injuries is unreliable, as a large number of incidents go unreported. Although guidelines and legislation dictates for most countries that all injuries should be noted, which usually involves a series of measures to complete an official process. This means that employees should always report and log all injuries that occur within the medical setting.

However, figures by leading bodies have estimated that a substantial amount of needlestick injuries are unreported. The UK's NHS cites studies that have suggested this figure could be up to 85 per cent.

There are a number of reasons why staff may not be willing to report an incident when it has occurred: 

Peer pressure
This is a significant problem if your hospital regularly takes on new or inexperienced staff, as they will be susceptible to doing what more experienced staff tell them is appropriate. For healthcare workers that have recently joined an organisation, there could also be pressure to avoid looking weak or inexperienced in front of their peers. 

To try and reduce the effects of peer pressure, it's important that appropriate training is delivered to each person working within the organisation. It should also be emphasised that there is no shame in reported a needlestick injury, as well as the health risks associated with not reporting such incidents. This will help ensure that all members of staff, regardless of their experience, are following the same process for needlestick prevention and the reporting process. It's also important to make sure any managers within the organisation are promoting and encouraging employees to follow the appropriate reporting process.

Confusion about process
This is another factor that can primarily affect newer workers, as they may be unclear about what the official process is. Although all members of staff will receive information about how to report a needlestick injury during their induction, they are usually given a lot of details all at once and so after a period of time they may be unconfident about how to log their injury correctly. It's also important to note that this can vary from one hospital to another, so even if they have worked in a hospital before it's paramount that the correct information for their current employer is provided.

Even staff that have been within an organisation for a long period of time are likely to forget the exact process for reporting incidents. This may be because getting injured at work isn't something they deal with on a regular basis, or due to the fact it is a new process that they are unfamiliar with. 

The best solution for this is to make sure that they are educational materials available for workers, as well as giving them all regular training sessions. The advantage of having pamphlets or leaflets about the reporting process is that a healthcare worker can find out the information and the official course of action without having to ask their peers, which could be a source of embarrassment.

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