Sharps safety to be focus of US college Commencement Address

Thursday April 20 2017

Sharps safety will be a key focus in the Commencement Address delivered to the graduates of a US college this summer.

The Curry College class of 2017 will hear a speech from Karen Daley, a former healthcare worker who suffered a life-changing needlestick injury, as part of their Commencement Exercises on Sunday May 21st.

This year marks 40 years of nursing courses being offered at the college, making Ms. Daley's appearance extremely fitting, and providing new healthcare graduates with a valuable insight into the potential consequences of a lax attitude towards sharps safety.

Ms. Daley worked as a staff nurse at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston for more than 25 years, until she suffered a needlestick injury in 1999. She was disposing of a used needle in a designated sharps bin when a hypodermic needle that was already inside it pricked her skin.

She was immediately tested for HIV and hepatitis C, as there was a chance her bloodstream could have been exposed to pathogens associated with these infections as a result of the injury. Ms. Daley's initial tests came back clear, but six months later it was apparent that she had contracted both of these life-threatening illnesses.

Since then, Ms. Daley has spent much of her time educating people about the dangers of needlestick injuries, campaigning across the US for specialist sharps safety devices to be used more widely. She believes that add-ons such as needle safety caps could help to prevent injuries similar to hers from occurring in the future.

What's more, Ms. Daley has played a key role in updating sharps safety legislation. In November 2000, just one year after her injury, she was present in the Oval Office while the Needlestick Safety Prevention Act became law.

Her work has since earned her several accolades, including a place on the 2011 list of the 100 Most Influential People in Healthcare compiled by Modern Healthcare, with a spot in the Top 25 Women in Healthcare in the publication's 2013 edition.

Ms Daley will be awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters at Curry College on May 21st.

Kenneth K Quigley Jr, president of Curry College, commented: "Karen's life story is compelling - it is one of service, sacrifice and achievement, and I am grateful that she will share it in her address to the class of 2017."

Image credit: NGUYENTHANHTUNG via iStock