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Archive February 2020 XXI, No. 2

Getting to the Point of Sharps Safety

There's more work to be done before sticks and cuts no longer occur in today's ORs.

Jared Bilski

BIO

Joe Paone

Joe Paone

BIO

NEUTRAL TERRITORY
Pamela Bevelhymer, RN, BSN, CNOR
NEUTRAL TERRITORY Requiring staff to use a hands-free neutral zone is one of the most effective ways to prevent sharps injuries.

For many surgeons, nurses and techs, sharps safety is merely preventative, another necessary precaution in a long line of necessary-but-onerous precautions that are just part of the job. But for Brenda G. Larkin, MS, RN, ACNS-BC, CNS-CP, CSSM, CNOR, clinical nurse specialist with Aurora Health Care in Elkhorn, Wis., sharps safety is personal.

Back in the early 1990s, before the emergence of neutral zones, Ms. Larkin suffered a sharps injury during an orthopedic procedure when a resident absentmindedly placed a needle on the mayo stand. Ms. Larkin, who also serves on the AORN board of directors, reached onto the mayo stand and wound up getting stuck. She received multiple screenings for HIV and Hepatitis B and C, and had to wait a full six months to find out she was infection-free. “I was basically in limbo that whole time,” says Ms. Larkin. “It was emotionally and mentally draining.”

This harrowing experience no doubt impacted Ms. Larkin’s approach to sharps safety at Aurora — an approach that is quite robust. Staff adhere to using a neutral zone — a designated area where sharps must be placed and received — and double-glove with an outer- and inner-glove indicator system. When the white outerglove it pierced or torn, the color of the underglove shows through, letting staff know to switch to a fresh pair.

In addition, surgeons use safety scalpels and the surgical team uses safety needles when they perform injections in the sterile field. “We’ve been using safety scalpels since 2010, and we added safety needles a little more recently,” says Ms. Larkin.

Finally, Ms. Larkin stays abreast of the latest sharps safety products as they hit the market, and incorporates the cutting-edge technology and best practices into her facility’s protocols whenever it’s feasible to do so.

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