Needlestick injuries in med school common -- and often unreported

Faculty and hospitals are urged to better educate students and streamline the injury-reporting process.

By Christine S. Moyer — Posted Dec. 11, 2009

Print  |   Email  |   Respond  |   Reprints  |   Like Facebook  |   Share Twitter  |   Tweet Linkedin

Medical students commonly stick themselves with needles and do not report it, placing them at increased risk for contracting bloodborne pathogens, according to a study in the December Academic Medicine (link).

Researchers surveyed 699 residents at 17 U.S. general surgery residency programs about needlestick injuries they received in medical school.

Fifty-nine percent said they sustained at least one needlestick injury during medical school. Of those, 21% said their most recent injury occurred at school but nearly half did not report the incident.

"I don't put the responsibility on students, because when I talk to them, I find that they choose not to report injuries because [they are discouraged] by the cumbersome internal reporting procedures," said Martin A. Makary, MD, MPH, a study author, associate professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and associate professor of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. "I think hospitals need to create a culture where people are encouraged to report."

Most alarming, Dr. Makary said, was the rate of surgery residents -- 33% -- who said while they were med students they had sustained a needlestick injury that involved a patient with a history of intravenous drug use, HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C.

He suggested hospitals provide backup to students who have to leave a patient to report a needlestick injury, allow students sufficient time to file a report and create a streamlined reporting process.

To reduce needlestick injuries, Dr. Makary urged medical schools to create a system of testing and certification of basic techniques for handling needles, to be completed before students' clinical rotations begin.

Dr. Makary also recommended that faculty use surgical simulators to teach medical students new skills, and he suggested that students use blunt-tip needles and wear two layers of gloves when handling sharp instruments in the operating room.

"As a general principle, it seems wrong for us to put our least-trained people in the most high-risk situations."

Back to top




Read story

Confronting bias against obese patients

Medical educators are starting to raise awareness about how weight-related stigma can impair patient-physician communication and the treatment of obesity. Read story

Read story


American Medical News is ceasing publication after 55 years of serving physicians by keeping them informed of their rapidly changing profession. Read story

Read story

Policing medical practice employees after work

Doctors can try to regulate staff actions outside the office, but they must watch what they try to stamp out and how they do it. Read story

Read story

Diabetes prevention: Set on a course for lifestyle change

The YMCA's evidence-based program is helping prediabetic patients eat right, get active and lose weight. Read story

Read story

Medicaid's muddled preventive care picture

The health system reform law promises no-cost coverage of a lengthy list of screenings and other prevention services, but some beneficiaries still might miss out. Read story

Read story

How to get tax breaks for your medical practice

Federal, state and local governments offer doctors incentives because practices are recognized as economic engines. But physicians must know how and where to find them. Read story

Read story

Advance pay ACOs: A down payment on Medicare's future

Accountable care organizations that pay doctors up-front bring practice improvements, but it's unclear yet if program actuaries will see a return on investment. Read story

Read story

Physician liability: Your team, your legal risk

When health care team members drop the ball, it's often doctors who end up in court. How can physicians improve such care and avoid risks? Read story

  • Stay informed
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • RSS
  • LinkedIn