An estimated 400,000–800,000 sharps-related injuries occur among healthcare workers (HCWs) annually in the United States. The risk of needlestick exposure may be particularly high among emergency medicine (EM) residents, who are learning new procedures in a relatively uncontrolled environment. Despite the potentially serious consequences of percutaneous injuries (PCIs), practitioners in training often down-play the occurrence of PCIs and do not report exposures.
Current literature implies that underreporting of needlestick injuries is multifactorial. By not seeking care after needlesticks occur and thereby delaying treatment, residents incur more risk from exposures. We sought to elucidate the underlying issues that might contribute to this lack of reporting needlestick injuries. Using an anonymous survey, we collected information regarding factors that contributed to sustaining a PCI as well as perceived barriers that prevented residents from reporting these exposures. This information is desirable for both residency programs and employee health departments to reduce the occurrence of unreported exposures.
The survey contained 19 questions, and all subjects were EM residents from the 8 Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education–accredited programs in the state of Illinois during the period January–February 2011. The voluntary survey was distributed via e-mail and through a paper version distributed at a regional EM residency conference.