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Archive December 2019 XX, No. 12

How We Slashed Our Sharps Injuries

Best practices are a must. But replacing emails with conversations and blame with caring is what really made our sharps injuries drop.

Sheri Tadlock

Sheri Tadlock, BSN, RN


Pamela Bevelhymer, RN, BSN, CNOR
A PLACE OF THEIR OWN A designated tray for syringes used in surgical settings can go a long way to making sure they make it to the disposal container without injuring anyone.

My mission from hospital leadership: Reduce sharps injuries in our 2 regional hospitals by 5% in a year. We far exceeded our goals, managing a 60% reduction from 2016 to 2018. While the first steps were to educate surgeons and staff about sharps safety, and reinforce and implement best practices, I truly believe that the changes in our follow-up process are what really drove the reduction. Essentially, we went from impersonal electronic communications to judgement-free face-to-face conversations. We made sure we didn't make those who'd been stuck feel like they've done something wrong. Instead, we asked if they were OK and focused on helping them prevent a repeat occurrence. That simple shift from blaming to caring made all the difference. Here's how we made the improvements.

1. Weed out non-safety sharps. We first identified when, where and why we were using non-safety sharps. We replaced non-safety sharps with safety ones where appropriate. If non-safety syringes were used simply to draw medication from a vial and never used on a patient, we allowed their continued use. We remain open to replacing all non-safety sharps, including scalpels, and have trialed all kinds — those with disposable plastic handles, with reusable metal handles, with safety sheaths and with retractable blades.

2. Correct high-risk behavior. The OR was a high-risk population cluster for sharps injuries. We reinforced best practices there:

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