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Go beyond the numbers to boost sharps safety
ECRI provides self-assessment questionnaire
How do you know if your needlestick prevention program is working? A decrease in injuries is a good barometer — but sometimes that could reflect a lack of reporting rather than an improvement in safety.
The ECRI Institute in Plymouth Meeting, PA, has developed a self-assessment questionnaire that enables infection preventionists and employee health professionals to gauge the effectiveness of their sharps safety program. The questionnaire is available on the nonprofit organization's web site at www.ecri.org/Documents.
"There is often that gap between what the organization has put into place and expects to be done and what actually is done and the knowledge that is retained," says Paul Anderson, director of risk management publications at ECRI.
The 16-page questionnaire encompasses device evaluation and selection, the exposure control plan, education and training, and other issues. It emphasizes the need to continue monitoring the sharps safety program, with questions such as: Is each protective device regularly assessed to ensure that it is being used effectively? Does this assessment include whether the protective device minimizes or eliminates the risk of a sharps injury to the user and others before, during, and after use?
The assessment also addresses work practices, including whether employees know how to use the devices properly and how to report any malfunctions or complaints. "A good way to answer these questions is to go out and ask health care workers," says Anderson.
ECRI designed the self-assessment to be used with a sharps safety training program. The instrument can be daunting, so Anderson suggests focusing on one portion at a time.
ECRI has conducted lab-based analyses of sharps devices, which are published in Consumers' Reports-style guides. But the most important factor in sharps safety is the buy-in of the frontline users, says Raylene Ballard, MS, MT(ASCP), senior project officer with the ECRI Health Devices Group.