What Should You Do If You Get a Needle Stick Injury at Work?


When you are taking care of sick patients and you have to work with needles, you can’t help but think of all the things that could go wrong – for you and them. You have to be really careful in order to keep everyone safe, and any type of healthcare position where you are drawing blood or injecting people is a super important role. However, sometimes things do go wrong that you can’t control. Let’s face it, accidents happen. So, if you are working in a lab and you accidentally prick yourself with a needle, what should you do? How often do needle stick injuries happen in healthcare, and what are some things you can do to reduce the likelihood of a needle stick injury? Below we’ll outline some ways you can protect yourself.

What are the chances of getting a needle stick injury at work?

Accidental needlestick injuries happen more often than you would think. An estimated 385,000 healthcare workers accidentally stick themselves with a needle each year. It can happen when you’re handling the needle or at times you don’t think of, like if a needle accidentally gets mixed in with linens or garbage. The good news is that even if it does happen, your chances of contracting a disease as a result of a needle stick injury are fairly low. We’re talking a 1 out of 300 chance to get an HIV infection. However, other diseases, like hepatitis B, have odds as high as nearly 1 in 3 if you’re not vaccinated for it. So, what should you do when you feel the prick?

needle stick injury

Here’s what you should do if you experience a needle stick injury at work!

If you happen to accidentally cause yourself a needle stick injury at work, here are some steps you should take immediately, according to the CDC.

  1. Wash both the impacted area and the needle with soap and water
  2. If blood splashed anywhere outside of the pricked area, make sure you flush any open areas on your body right away – especially if it was in or near your nose or mouth. It might be a good idea to flush these even if you don’t think any fluids got near them.
  3. You should also irrigate your eyes with clean water, saline, or sterile irrigants.
  4. Make sure you tell your supervisor that this happened so that they can follow the healthcare facility’s protocol.
  5. Make sure that you seek medical treatment and follow their instructions so that you can have follow-up care to make sure nothing was contracted.

It’s very important that you follow all of these steps. Even if it’s a minimal prick, you don’t want to brush it off as if it is no big deal. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

How to Prevent a Needle Stick Injury

Most importantly, you and your fellow healthcare workers should try to prevent a needle stick injury from happening altogether. Some recommendations for making sure this doesn’t happen at your facility include:

  • Following all procedural guidelines
  • Improving equipment design so it’s easier to handle
  • Implement effective disposal systems for needles
  • Participate in safety training

As someone who travels in the allied health industry, you are facing new workplaces every few months. Each place has a different policy and procedure when it comes to handling needles. You want to make sure that each facility you enter, you familiarize yourself with their system so that you can work as safely as possible. One aspect of traveling that many don’t think of until they are doing it is the change in routine at each facility. It can be challenging to adjust, so it’s important to learn and ask questions so that you are safe and following directions.

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Do you have any additional tips for how to protect yourself against an accidental needle stick injury? Share with us in the comments below!

Author: Lenay Ruhl

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