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Don’t Get Stuck! Sharp Safety in Corrections

Don’t Get Stuck! Sharp Safety in Corrections

Lorry Schoenly | Correctional Nurse

I visit many jails and prisons across the country providing risk consultation for healthcare units. It is not rocket science to reduce injury risk but it is still very hard to do! Take sharp safety for example. We all know what we need to do but don’t always do it. Protecting ourselves from a needle stick injury takes second (or third or fourth!) place to so many other concerns being juggled.

Personal safety is a number one concern in the corrections environment. Correctional nurses are ever aware of who is around them and where custody staff are located. Just as important to personal safety are standard sharp safety procedures. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

• Are needle boxes overflowing? Boxes should be only 2/3 full. Check that there is a regular supply of empty boxes for frequent replacement. Many needle stick injuries come from trying to shove used needles into an overfull red box.
• Do staff members throw other trash in the sharps box? This makes is even harder to keep available for sharps waste.
• Are there sharps containers in all care areas? We provide care in a variety of locations in the facility. Always have a sharps container available before you give the injection or use the lancet. This will help avoid carrying used sharps back to the main medical unit.
• Do I know how to initiate the sharp safety mechanism for the needle brand used in my facility? It is amazing how many of these mechanisms are NOT intuitive. I know of several needle stick injuries due to incorrect initiation of the sheath protector.
• Am I in a secure location? Check around you before starting your insulin line or other sharps-based activity. Needle stick injuries have come from nurses startled by custody or inmates during the injection process.

HIV is estimated to be five times higher for the incarcerated population. That means correctional nurses are in even greater jeopardy of infection from a needle stick injury. Protect yourself and your family by establishing good needle safety habits.

December has been designated International Sharp Safety Month. What will you do today to keep safe from a needle stick and possible blood borne pathogen transfer? Share your sharps experiences or some additional advice in the comments section.

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