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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

Health care worker group tracking national needlestick trends, lobbying for rapid testing of source patients

Employee health and infection control professionals have made a lot of progress in reducing the risk of needlesticks that could lead to infections with bloodborne viruses like HCV.

However, the problem is still beset by a “gap in knowledge,” says Linda Good, PhD, RN, COHN-S, director of Employee Health Services for Scripps Health in La Jolla, CA, and chair of a neeedlestick research committee at the Association for Occupational Health Professionals in Healthcare (AOHP).

The AHOP is collecting needlestick data in a national survey, with the results slated for release at the association’s fall 2013 conference . .

“With our AOHP membership spanning the United States, we had an opportunity to collect data from our members and come up with some good numbers,” she says.

Expo-S.T.O.P, or Exposure Survey of Trends in Occupational Practice, could eventually gather data on other health care hazards, such as patient handling injuries, the AOHP reports. About 115 occupational health professionals have participated in the survey so far, providing information about needlesticks and mucocutaneous exposures. They also report some hospital characteristics, such as bed size, average daily inpatient census, number of employees, and whether it is a teaching or non-teaching hospital. While hospitals track their own needlesticks, they also like to know how they compare to similar hospitals, Good says.

The AOHP also plans to share information about best practices. “The membership has expressed a lot of interest in what we find,” says Dee Tyler, RN, COHN-S, FAAOHN, executive president of the AOHP.

The AOHP is concerned about the ongoing occurrence of significant blood/body fluid exposures. “‘Underreporting of significant exposures, timely testing of exposed HCWs and source patients, and the establishment of a current national database of significant exposures are areas that must be addressed,” the AOHP states. “

The AOHP advocates that states remove the requirements for special written consent for HIV testing to expedite exposure source testing in the case of a blood or body fluid exposure involving a HCW.

“[Patient] screening should be incorporated into the general consent for medical care after the patient is notified that testing will be performed unless the patient declines or opts out,” the AOHP states.