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CDC Study: Doctors and Nurses Admit to Reusing Syringes for Multiple Patients at Dangerously High Rates

Researchers found that 12% of physicians and 3% of nurses reuse syringes in their workplace.

Published: October 6, 2017

INJECTION PRACTICES An alarming 12% of physicians and 3% of nurses admit that they reuse syringes in their facilities.

You'd think unsafe injection practices would be a rarity nowadays, but a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study finds that's not the case.

Unsafe injection practices like reusing syringes on multiple patients are happening at an alarming rate. Researchers say "a dangerous minority of providers [are] violating basic standards of care" — 12% of physicians report that syringe reuse occurs in their workplace, and 3% of nurses admit to performing unsafe injection practices. Even scarier? Five percent of those physicians report that the practice usually or always occurs in their workplace.

The CDC study, which was published in the American Journal of Infection Control, surveyed 370 physicians and 320 nurses. The survey measured how often nurses personally practice unsafe injection practices in their workplace, whereas physicians were measured on how often healthcare personnel in their workplace weren't following safe practices.

The practices that researchers assessed included:

  • how often a single-dose vial for multiple patients was used;
  • how often a bag or bottle of IV solution as a source of supply or medication diluent for more than one patient was used;
  • how often personnel administered medications from the same syringe to more than one patient after changing the needle; and
  • how often they reentered a multidose vial with the same syringe for an additional dose for the same patient

Although safe injection practices should be at the cornerstone of patient care, researchers found that "there is a persistent but dangerous minority of providers violating this basic standard of care. Safe injection practices are critical to the overall safety of healthcare delivery. It is the responsibility of every provider who prepares and administers injections, or supervises those that prepare and administer injections, to ensure that patients are not exposed to life-threatening infections."

Despite initiatives like the One & Only Campaign, which is led by the CDC and aims to raise awareness about safe injection practices, unsafe practices are still occurring. According to the report, there were more than 50 outbreaks due to unsafe injection practices in U.S. healthcare facilities between 2001 and 2016. There were also more than 150,000 patients that were notified of possible exposure to hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus and HIV due to breaches like the reuse of needles and syringes for more than one patient in the same time period.

"Results from our evaluation of injection practices revealed dangerous provider misperceptions and behaviors," the researchers write. "Although most providers were aware of outbreaks associated with unsafe injection practices, awareness of the One & Only Campaign was low, and responses revealed misperceptions regarding the acceptability of practices that are clearly unsafe."

Brielle Gregory


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