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How to support new/inexperienced staff

June 04, 2014

For many hospitals and healthcare organisations, supporting new and inexperienced workers is vital for reducing the level of risk that both staff and patients are exposed to. However, for those employees who regularly handle needlesticks and medical sharps, this puts them in severe danger of contracting a disease through the blood-borne pathogens found in blood.

Research published in JAMA Dermatology found that half (45.2 per cent) of all dermatology residents have failed to report a needlestick injury during procedures, while other examples of bad practice have also been observed. This suggests that trainee medical staff are not being supported enough to report instances where standards are falling below guidelines or they are unaware of the protocol in place.

It appears that this isn't an issue just affecting dermatology residents either. A study published in the American Journal of Infection Control (AJIC) found that 100 per cent of the student nurses surveyed had witnessed instances where infection prevention and control practices had fallen below standard.

Researchers at the Cardiff University and London's City University found that more than half of the 488 students included had observed members of staff poorly handling medical sharps and failing to adhere to isolation precautions.

Infection prevention and control (IPC) is not just important for the safety of each patient cared for, but also could have an impact on a worker's career, especially where needlesticks and medical sharps are concerned. 

So how can employers support their new and inexperienced staff in the workplace?

Raise Awareness
For many employers in the healthcare sector, ensuring that the correct level of awareness is given to each and every member of staff is important in all areas, but is imperative when it comes to handling medical sharps and infection prevention.

As the first port of call, this should involve conducting a risk assessment of the hospital or organisation to determine which healthcare workers are exposed to the biggest threats. For needlestick and medical sharps injuries, member of staff who are commonly placed in your A&E departments or surgery are usually under the most risk of suffering a percutaneous injury. This then helps to identify where efforts should be focused and who needs to be most aware of the risks ahead of them.

By ensuring that all workers, especially staff in high risk areas, know the risks that suffering a needlestick injury can cause, the danger is minimised. This means they are more likely to adopt safety devices and follow other procedures that reduce their overall risk.

Training comes hand-in-hand with raising awareness and should not be neglected or put on the back burner. Where possible, appropriate training should be delivered to new members of staff in their introduction to the workplace as this ensures they are using best practice and adopting the appropropriate protocol from the off-set. 

It's also important that training is delivered throughout a person's career, especially for those that are identified at being at a high risk. This ensures they are kept up-to-date with the latest legislation and guidelines either from the employer or a governing body, which is crucial when it comes to reducing the threat of needlestick injuries.

Best Practice
Ensuring that all healthcare workers, even those that have been within the organisation a number of years or decades, are observing the guidelines and best practice is crucial when it comes to encouraging new and inexperienced members of staff. By seeing experienced people carrying out procedures in the ideal way, new employees are more likely to adopt the same standard and be encouraged to do this throughout their career.

However, in order for more experienced members of staff to be following guidelines, organisations must ensure the correct practices are in place, with education, training and risk assessments being carried out to the correct standard. If employees feel unsupported by their employer or that protocol isn't clear or easy to complete, it is unlikely they will cooperate with the legislation in place.

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