Why and How to Avoid Needlestick Injuries to Secure Your Practice
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Summary: The billion-dollar problem that affects dentists more than any other healthcare professional. Are you aware of the latest tools and safety protocols to minimize the risks? We discuss why it is so important to avoid this common cause of injury and suggest some simple steps you can implement to protect your team, yourself, and your practice.
Why and How to Avoid Needlestick Injuries to Secure Your Practice
Too often forgotten, needlestick injuries (also called NSIs) are a well-known problem in the medical world, defined as “a penetration of the skin by a hypodermic needle or sharp object accidentally pricking the skin with a used needle.”1 Unfortunately, they are a common cause of injury or illness for healthcare workers in medical centers. As a dentist, you and your staff face a constant risk of NSIs in your daily activities. While this problem is not new, the impact that such accidents can have on your practice is often ignored and underestimated. Beyond the obvious health issues, needlestick injuries can have significant repercussions for your business, so it is crucial for you to anticipate them and learn how to protect yourself and your staff against these kinds of risks. The stakes are high: security, peace of mind, and profitability.
The facts about needlestick injuries
Let's start with some facts. As previously mentioned, NSIs are an age-old problem, and most professionals are trained to avoid them. Still, accidents can happen. In the U.S. alone for instance, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an average of over 1,000 sharps injuries occur daily in hospitals2. A report issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) indicated that an estimated three million healthcare workers suffer from “percutaneous exposures to blood-borne pathogens each year” 3, specifically dentists, the most affected profession by this kind of injury4. All this leads to $1 billion in unnecessary costs for the healthcare system each year5 - impressive figures!
Dentistry is a particularly risky discipline6, the main threats occurring during local anesthetic injections or recapping, and when disposing of used syringes. In short, avoiding NSIs requires that you, the dentist, be more vigilant than the average medical population. It’s a worthwhile effort, considering the numerous rewards of a 100% injury-free practice.
The benefits of avoiding needle-stick injuries
1. Fewer health problems
This is of course the main reason to avoid NSIs. When a syringe needle pierces the skin, it can lead to pathologies being transmitted, some very serious, depending on the previous patient’s health condition. The most common infections by blood-borne pathogens are hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).6
These potential health problems are of particular concern because a large proportion of NSIs often go unreported by practitioners,7 which can cause even greater damages in the long term. These statistics indicate that NSIs are a real public health issue.
Avoiding NSIs allows you to steer clear of these fearful diseases and other possible related complications. What’s more, by mitigating the risk of NSIs you will also have a positive impact on mental health.
Here’s why: the danger inherent in sharps injuries generates long-term stress and might engage your team’s mind in additional concerns, in addition to the ensuing physical ailments. Fear of getting hurt engages your mind in additional concerns that hinder your concentration and can cause easy mistakes during work. By banning NSIs altogether, you regain an essential component of a good medical practice: confidence and peace of mind. As a dental practitioner, you will enjoy lower stress levels and as a result become more efficient, benefitting your patient care as well.
2. No unnecessary expenses
Of course, the medical staff’s health remains practitioners’ top priority. However, NSIs can incur serious financial costs as well. Once a NSI occurs, treatments are required, whether for prevention or care - and these treatments come with a price tag. A recent study revealed that the median cost for each NSI is $747, not counting the potential intangible and increasing costs.8 Indeed, despite recent progress, treating diseases like HBV, HCV and HIV remains cumbersome and expensive. Another recent study showed that HIV treatment alone requires spending between $35,745 and $441,342 per year.9 If you get sick, the hospital bill can balloon out of control with unexpected expenses. A report by the U.S. government estimates that by eliminating 69,000 NSIs, the health industry could save up to $173 million per year in treatment costs!10
And while direct costs may be high, financial concerns also exist at a more indirect level. Beyond affecting your business, these kinds of events also cause suffering and stress. If you or one of your staff members gets sick because of a NSI, it would require you to lose working days due to unavailability or even close the office. Ideally, you want to avoid both illness and a slowed-down practice. So by minimizing the risk of NSIs, you’re ensuring the best possible protection against major and unforeseen expenses.
3. Legal peace of mind
NSIs are a common subgroup of medical accidents. As with every accident, they carry personal, financial and - yes - legal impact. Beyond the obvious sanitary risks, any adverse event that takes place within your dental practice can have legal consequences. For example, it is perfectly legal for employees who could have been infected due to NSI to sue for compensation.11 Of course, these extreme cases remain rare, but by accepting the risk of NSIs you are leaving the door open to this possibility. While you strive for a totally safe practice, you can draw on multiple official protocols, like those issued by the WHO12 or the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work.13 By strictly following them, you’re not only protecting yourself against possible lawsuits, but you’re also securing your practice, your health, and your employees’ health. See it as starting a virtuous cycle of well-being and trust inside your workplace.
4. Appreciation from your team
Last but not least, doing everything possible to limit needle stick injuries greatly improves the quality of life in your workplace. When you show your staff that you care, that you do everything possible to provide a very safe working environment, you foster their gratefulness. In an increasingly competitive business world (even for the medical world), showing that you understand and anticipate workplace safety issues can go a long way toward keeping the best possible staff on your side. These kinds of actions matter, and that's how a true synergy between you and your teams is established.
Let’s summarize. Avoiding NSIs can decrease sanitary risks, increase your profitability, remove some of your daily stress, and strengthen the bond between you and your staff. Sounds great, but the next question is - How to effectively and simply avoid needle stick injuries?
How to avoid needle-stick injuries
To achieve success, you need to implement a few key steps:
1- Awareness. You already know that NSIs are real and can happen to anyone. And if they slipped to the back of your mind, this article is here to remind you. Knowing the hazard exists is the first step toward avoiding it. So, make sure that the danger is known and controlled, both by you and your entire staff.
2- Actions. It is crucial for practitioners to receive proper training and rely on strong safety protocols. For instance, not recapping needles after use should be the norm, as well as other protocols like the double glove technique14, mandatory vaccination, etc. In fact, many practice guides already exist to help greatly reduce risks15. Just keep in mind: even though there is no such thing as zero risk, you can still implement multiple best practices to keep it at bay.
3- Equipment. Awareness and actions alone are not enough. You should also rely on the best possible tools to avoid NSIs. The WHO recommends using “safety syringes with a sharps injury protection (SIP)” and suggests you “plan safe handling and disposal of needles before using them, e.g. make sure there is a safety box at arm’s reach when you give an injection.”16 These are relatively common tools and using them efficiently is the key to a safe practice.
NSIs can be a serious issue in the course of dentistry work. Fortunately, solutions have recently been developed to vastly minimize the risks. The progress achieved in tools and protocols over the past few years now guarantees a safe practice on a daily basis. Above all, it is important to raise awareness on this issue and to act accordingly.
If you empower yourself to take the right steps, you can secure your activity and achieve lasting results and benefits. Let’s end NSIs together.
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To support you in your daily practice, we created a syringe that lets you use needles safely and easily:
Protects you and your staff from all NSIs thanks to an effective protective sheath
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Is ready-to-use instantly, no training required
Complies with the latest regulations
 Wikipedia. “Needlestick Injury.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Needlestick_injury (Accessed 23 April 2021).
 OSHA. “Healthcare Wide Hazards: Needlestick/Sharps Injuries.” U.S. Department of Labor. https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/hospital/hazards/sharps/sharps.html (Accessed 29 April 2021.)
 Rodgers, Anthony and Vaughan, Patrick. Dir. Christopher Murray and Alan Lopez. (2002). “The world health report 2002-Reducing Risks, Promoting Healthy Life.” WHO. https://www.who.int/whr/2002/en/whr02_en.pdf?ua=1
 Safe in Common. (2013). “Prevention of Needlestick Injuries Can Save U.S Healthcare System More than $1 Billion a year” https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/prevention-of-needlestick-injuries-can-save-us-healthcare-system-more-than-1-billion-a-year-220662421.html (Accessed 23 April 2021).
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Sharps Injuries: Bloodborne Pathogens.” NORA. 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/nora/councils/hcsa/stopsticks/bloodborne.html (Revised February 26)
 Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. "Needle-stick Injuries Are Common But Unreported By Surgeons In Training." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070627221733.htm (accessed April 28, 2021).
 Mannocci A., De Carli G., Di Bari V., et al. “How Much do Needlestick Injuries Cost? A Systematic Review of the Economic Evaluations of Needlestick and Sharps Injuries Among Healthcare Personnel.” Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2016;37(6):635-646. doi:10.1017/ice.2016.48 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4890345/
 Heinrich, Janet. (2000). “Occupational Safety: Selected Cost and Benefit Implications of Needlestick Prevention Devices for Hospitals” G.A.O. https://www.gao.gov/assets/gao-01-60r.pdf
Ainsdale, Mark. “How Much Compensation Can I Claim For A Needlestick Injury?” LegalExpert.co.uk https://www.legalexpert.co.uk/how-to-claim/needlestick-injury/#nscc5 (Last Updated 25th March 2021).
 World Health Organization. “Make Smart Injection Choices. Prevent Needle-Stick Injuries.” https://www.who.int/infection-prevention/tools/injections/IS_needlestick_Leaflet.pdf (Accessed 23 April, 2021).
 European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (OSHA). “E Facts 40: Risk assessment and needlestick injuries.” https://osha.europa.eu/en/publications/e-fact-40-risk-assessment-and-needlestick-injuries (Accessed 23 April 2021).
 Yang, L., & Mullan, B. (2011). “Reducing needle stick injuries in healthcare occupations: an integrative review of the literature.” ISRN nursing, 2011, 315432. https://doi.org/10.5402/2011/315432
 American Nurses Association (ANA). (2002). “Needlestick Prevention Guide” https://www.who.int/occupational_health/activities/2needguid.pdf (Accessed April 23, 2021).
 World Health Organization. “Make Smart Injection Choices. Prevent Needle-Stick Injuries.”