Needlesticks increase with stressful environment

As sicker, more complex patients are increasingly cared for by home health nurses, the risk for needlestick injuries also increases. In a recent study, researchers identified the rate of needlestick-type injuries to be 7.6 per 100 nurses. At this rate, researchers estimate that there are nearly 10,000 needlestick injuries each year in home care.1

More than 700 home health nurses in the state of New York participated in the study that looked at needlestick injuries that occurred in the previous three years. Fourteen percent of the RNs reported one or more needlestick injuries, but 45.8% of these injuries were not formally reported. Factors contributing to the injuries include a lack of compliance with standard precautions, recapping of needles, exposure to household stressors, exposure to violence, mandatory overtime, and safety climate.

A critical finding of this study was the statistical correlation between needlesticks and exposure to stressful conditions in the patients' household. Nurses reporting household stressors, such as cigarette smoke, unsanitary conditions, air pollution, and vermin, were nearly twice as likely to report needlestick injuries. Most significant was the fact that home health care nurses exposed to violence in their patients' households were nearly 3½ times more likely to also report needlestick injuries, according to the study.


1. Gershon RRM, Pearson JM, Sherman MF, et al. The prevalence and risk factors for percutaneous injuries in registered nurses in the home health care sector. Am J Inf Control 2009; 37:525-533.