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

NIOSH: Prevent needlesticks with a ‘blitz’

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that hospital workers suffer some 385,000 needlesticks and sharps-related injuries every year. In addition to costs incurred by the health care facility, the stress on the affected worker and the worker’s family can be enormous. Testing for bloodborne pathogen infections can last for months, fueling anxiety and distress for a prolonged period.

If your sharps injuries have reached a plateau and you are having a hard time making progress on needlestick prevention, it may be time for a “blitz.”

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has launched a new website called STOP STICKS to help health care facilities create an awareness campaign.

The concept is to create short, targeted campaigns, perhaps lasting a month or eight weeks with new messages every week or two, says Thomas Cunningham, PhD, a behavioral scientist with NIOSH’s Education and Information Division in Cincinnati.

“This is intended to saturate the environment with messages to raise awareness. Hopefully that impacts behavior,” he says.

An effective blitz would be tailored to one area, such as the emergency department or operating room, he says. “It tends to be more effective if it’s focused in a specific area rather than the entire facility all at once,” he says.

“The first major step in conducting a blitz is to understand your audience,” he says. For example, NIOSH provides pre-tests for the OR and other areas, as well as observation evaluation forms. The blitz can then be developed around weaknesses or misconceptions, he says. (See sample OR form inserted in this issue.)

Facilities also can create data displays just by plugging numbers into ready-made charts, available on the website. There are even sample articles for the hospital newsletter.

“The idea was to give the target audience some feedback about the actual conditions they’re working in, things that are much more relevant to their specific situation, and to communicate that risk,” says Cunningham. “Everything is very customizable.”

Yet if the medium is the message, the NIOSH site needed to alter its awareness, as well. The site launched with “stock” photos of a gloved hand and a needle – and it wasn’t safety engineered. The pictures of unsafe sharps were quickly removed.

Michele Marrill

Special update from our sister publication, Hospital Employee Health