Stuck by Needles, yet Often Fail to Report -- MEDICA - World Forum for Medicine

Stuck by Needles, yet Often Fail to Report

Photo: A wound at the arm getting sewed and stitched

Medical students are learning
many things by doing; © SXC

Researchers surveyed surgery residents at 17 medical centres and, of 699 respondents, 415 (or 59 percent) said they had sustained a needle stick injury as a medical student. Many said they were stuck more than once. Of the surgeons-in-training whose most recent needle stick occurred in medical school, nearly half of them did not report their injury to an employee health office, thereby avoiding an evaluation as to whether they needed treatment to prevent HIV or hepatitis C.

There is evidence of vast underreporting, says Martin A. Makary, lead researcher for the study.“ Medical schools are not doing enough to protect their students and hospitals are not doing enough to make medical school safe,” he says. “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.” Makary says medical schools should take advantage of advances in simulation technology and do less training on actual human beings until they are more skilled.

The authors of the study believe that needle sticks go unreported due to cumbersome reporting procedures, fears about poor clinical evaluations by their superiors, or embarrassment. The most commonly given reason in the study for why the medical students did not report needle injuries was the amount of time involved in making a report.

The survey did find, however, that medical students were very likely (92 percent) to report the needle stick if the patient was at high risk for having a virus like HIV or hepatitis, compared with 47 percent of injuries involving low-risk patients. Still, prompt reporting of all needle stick injuries is critical to ensuring proper medical prophylaxis, counselling and legal precautions, Makary says. “Hospitals are not creating a culture of speaking up.” Most of the needle sticks among medical students were self-inflicted and occurred in the operating room when the student felt rushed.; Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine