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What are the barriers for introducing preventative measures?

August 28, 2014

Healthcare workers have a number of hazards that they are unavoidably exposed to during their working day. This is often combined with time pressures, tiredness or other factors that can mean members of staff aren't as careful as they should be when performing procedures. However, employers are responsible for ensuring that each hazard carries the minimum amount of risk.

As a healthcare organisation or hospital, it's impossible to control what each member of staff is doing and ensure they abide by the necessary protocols. However, having the correct and appropriate preventative measures in place will make sure the employer is legally and morally covered, as well as reducing the risk of workers suffering a traumatic event.

When organisations are trying to introduce preventative measures across an entire hospital or other medical setting, which can often include ten-of-thousands of healthcare workers, there are a number of barriers that can get in the way of these measures being successful.

Insufficient training
Whenever an organisation is introducing a new protocol, process or preventative measure, it's important that each member of staff receives the appropriate level of training. Research has shown that proper training will reduce the number of needlestick injuries suffered in a hospital, so failing to provide it can lead to confusion and errors being made. When people are working closely in groups, as many healthcare workers do, inappropriate training can lead to bad practice becoming widespread across an organisation as new or inexperienced staff can adopt negative habits.

Staff members not understanding measures 
Preventative measures can often fall at the first hurdle if all healthcare workers aren't aware of why they are being put in place. The introduction of new processes can often mean staff have to spend more time on something, or at least complete training sessions. This can receive a negative response, especially among more experienced workers, as many simply want to get on with their job. However, this backlash can be controlled if the organisation makes it clear why the new preventative measures have been introduced. 

In the case of needlestick injuries, older members of staff may be unsure about why new measures are needed as they may have been doing their job without any incident for decades. This can be avoided by ensuring that proper information is given about the dangers and health implications of sharps injuries for both patients, themselves and other workers.

Underreporting of needlestick injuries
It is a widespread fact that the number of needlestick injuries reported may not reflect the true number of events, as many healthcare workers do not follow the appropriate procedure when suffering an injury. Not only does this mean that is it difficult for organisations to identify what departments and staff members are most at risk, but it can also affect healthcare workers' opinion of incidents.

The underreporting of needlestick injuries can mean that staff consider them to be a very rare event, meaning they don't obey the proper protocol or preventative measures. This can be avoided through comprehensive explanation of how inaccurate statistics often are, and stressing how easily someone can injure themselves with a medical sharp.

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