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Archive Staff & Patient Safety 2020

Close Out Cases With Sharps Safety in Mind

Focus on human factors to prevent needlesticks during surgery's critical last step.

Barbara DiTullio

Barbara DiTullio, RN, BSN, MA


PAY ATTENTION Remind staff that wound closure is a high-risk time for sharps injuries, so they're cognizant of the potential for injury.

For the longest time, we believed safer equipment and safety procedures were the way to prevent sharps injuries. But after years of increased focus on sharps safety, this hasn't been the case. A telling statistic highlights the stark reality: In 70% of sharps injuries among Massachusetts hospital workers in 2008, employees were using devices with a safety option and still got hurt, according to the state's Massachusetts Sharps Injury Surveillance System (MSISS). As I've studied needlestick injury prevention in the OR, a nagging cause kept coming up: human factors and interruptions during critical moments of procedures.

When it came time to pick a research project while I pursued my doctorate of nursing practice degree, I knew exactly what I wanted to study. There is nothing new in the literature available about why safety equipment and procedures largely haven't prevented sharps injuries. Plus, it was clear that no one had written about how wound closure factored into injuries. Connecting these dots revealed a compelling story that ultimately revealed ways to make the OR a much safer place for staff.

Through my research, I discovered that simply staying focused and mindful during wound closure — as well as providing interval education to reinforce learning — could be one of the most essential methods to prevent needlestick injuries.

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