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Needle Injuries Going Unreported

Wed, 12/02/2009 - 7:19am

Megan Brooks, Reuters

The problem, Dr. Martin A. Makary of Johns Hopkins University notes, is that hospitals are not creating a “culture of speaking up. If people are not speaking up regarding their own safety concerns, it's probably a surrogate marker of people not speaking up about patient safety concerns.”

Dan Henderson, a third-year medical student and Health Justice Fellow at the American Medical Student Association in Reston, Virginia said, “When you are a medical student, new to a surgical or medical rotation, you are at the bottom of the totem pole. That totem pole really creates a lot of pressure not to speak up about safety issues, particularly things like needlesticks.”

Makary and colleagues surveyed a group of surgical residents at 17 medical centers about needlestick injuries they sustained while in medical school or residency. The report, which can be found in the latest issue of Academic Medicine, shows that 83 percent of those responding experienced a needlestick injury as a resident and 59 percent as a medical student, with an average of two injuries per respondent.

Most of the needlestick injuries among medical students were self-inflicted, occurred in the operating room, or when the student felt rushed. Among those who sustained their most recent needlestick injury during medical school, 47 percent did not report the incident to the appropriate person. The most common reason cited for the lack of reporting was the amount of time required to file a report.

In Makary’s opinion, “Medical schools are not doing enough to protect their students and hospitals are not doing enough to make medical school safe. We, as a medical community, are putting our least skilled people on the front lines in the most high-risk situations. Most trainees are still forced to learn to sew and stitch on patients, which puts both providers and patients at risk,” he warned.

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