Use data to push sharps safety in the OR

Surgeons respond with safer practices

Although blunt suture needles are rare in the operating room, other safer practices have begun to take hold.

At Gwinnett Medical Center in Lawrenceville, GA, Vangie Dennis, RN, CNOR, CMLSO, advanced technology manager, places an emphasis on data and scientific literature as she tries to convey her sharps safety message to surgeons. For example, she shared information on the protective benefits of double-gloving. One study showed that of 88 glove perforations during surgery, only 6.8% perforated the inner glove.

She also shared information about sharps injuries in the hospital's OR. Dennis put a poster above the scrub sinks showing hands with red dots that indicated the sticks occurring in different surgical departments. "I blitz them with information," Dennis says. "I let them know how many sticks we've had. They want data."

When Dennis implemented a neutral zone for passing instruments, she used an incentive program to get the OR teams' attention. Surgeons and other OR personnel may place one item in a "passing zone" or multiple items in the designated neutral zone.

She organized a "Neutral Zone Round-Up" with "Neutral Zone Sheriffs." Nurses wearing badges would "ticket" people who used the neutral zone, but in this case, the tickets results in a reward: a candy bar. The names of surgical personnel also were placed in a bucket for a weekly drawing for $10 certificates to Starbucks, the local movie theater, and other prizes.

Now that work practices have improved, Dennis plans to move forward with promotion of blunt suture needles. She has developed a presentation on sharps exposures in the OR and gained the support of some surgeons who are willing to try the needles. She plans to meet with the safety committee and surgical department committees.

Dennis also will place information about suture needle injuries and the American College of Surgeons statement on blunt suture needles above scrub sinks and in the doctors' lounge.

A recent incident may make surgeons more receptive to change. A general surgeon retired after contracting hepatitis C from a needlestick and suffering from an acute infection. "That shook some people up," says Dennis.