Needlestick Injury: What Happens Next?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there are nearly 400,000 needlestick incidents among nurses and other health care workers each year. Nursing accident lawyers warn that health professionals should take immediate and specific action in these events. Such actions can prevent illness and position the employee for compensation should that be necessary.
A needlestick injury can be scary, but it’s important to remain calm and let your training guide you. It is important to note that each hospital or other medical facility may have its own protocols to which you should adhere. Note also that your ideal actions may depend on the exposure type, but in most scenarios, the proper course of action includes:
- Cleaning the wound
- Reporting the event to a supervisor
- Performing blood work and other lab work
- Seeking counseling
- Seeking legal representation if applicable
Clean the Wound
The first order of business is to clean the wound as soon as possible. If there are still professional responsibilities in the immediate area, another nurse should manage those. Clean the wound with soap and warm water. It is also recommended to milk the area in order to assist with bleeding. Viruses can multiply quickly once in the bloodstream, and milking helps ensure that they never get there. Additionally, if there was any splashing, then it is necessary to irrigate those areas well. These steps can help to prevent bloodborne diseases, which include:
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C
- Human immunodeficiency virus
Report the Exposure
Among the most common mistakes nurses make in these scenarios is not reporting the event to a supervisor as soon as the wound is clean. This is a tremendous mistake because it delays the medical attention that the nurse receives, and it can put the employee in a difficult situation should damages arise from the event and compensation be required.
Blood Work and Other Medical Attention
At this point, the process will depend on the willingness of the patient. Blood work is ideal, but if the patient is not willing, then lab work will be performed. After, the nurse will receive medical attention from a doctor. The situation usually needs to be monitored in an ongoing fashion until all of the lab work is complete, and treatment must begin at the first signs of infection. It is important to comply with all examinations and treatments recommended by your doctor.
Nurses dealing with a needlestick incident often benefit greatly from professional counseling. This will often be provided by the employer. Not only is a needlestick stressful, but it also often results in a protracted period where nurses have to wait for test results and the like. Ensuring proper mental health at a time like this is imperative. Be mindful that you have the right to confidentiality with a therapist, so you can speak freely without fear that what you say could undermine a legal case.
Seek Legal Representation
There are many damages to which you may have a right to compensation in the event of a needlestick. It can help to seek legal representation early in the process. Prior to seeking assistance, never admit fault, and if at any point you feel as if your rights are being infringed, pause that discussion or other scenario and seek help. Many lawyers who specialize in such cases will take them on at no up-front cost to the nurse, and it can make a big difference to have an independent party in your corner.
Legal Assistance for Health Care Professionals
At the Voorhees Law Office, workers’ compensation is an area of focus for us, and that extends to nurses and other health care workers who often have specialized needs. You can sit down with a nursing accident lawyer to discuss your case, and we’ll provide that initial consultation without obligation. If you choose us as your legal team, you’ll receive local representation. To schedule, contact us online or call our office in Somerville at (908) 200-2297.