'I thought I would never be able to give an injection again'
Callum’s experience of a needlestick injury left him shaken, but the supportive staff helped him see the positives
Needlestick injuries can happen in any healthcare setting where injections are given. They not only put practitioners’ safety at risk, but can damage the confidence of anyone involved.
My first experience of a needlestick injury left me shocked, worried and deflated before helping hands arrived from my clinical mentors.
I was on placement on a busy elderly ward and helping with the evening drugs round. I’d been asked to give Clexane via a subcutaneous injection to a specific patient. I followed all the correct steps carefully; checking the dose, the correct patient and explaining what the injection was for while gaining consent.
But because the ward was so busy, I was listening to instructions about moving patients and aiding in personal care while I was giving the injection. I questioned whether I should be doing this while giving an injection; was I compromising the safety of patients or myself?
I knew I should be focussing on the task in hand, but the pressure of wanting to impress my clinical colleagues overcame me.
After giving the injection, I tried to place the needle in the nearby sharps bin, which was full. In my rush, I tried pushing it through the gap and felt a prick on my finger. I was shocked, I couldn’t believe I had let this happen.
Luckily, no penetration occurred as there was no bleeding from the site, but still precautions needed to be taken. I felt panicked and stupid as I realised I shouldn’t have tried putting the sharp in a full bin. I felt incompetent and like I didn’t belong in a clinical setting.
The event initially led me to lose confidence, and at first I thought I would never be able to give an injection again. But with the sister’s help and guidance, I gave another injection straight away without any mishaps. The sister’s advice “if at first you don’t succeed, try again” will never leave me. This helped me remember how, as students, it is important we learn from our mistakes.
But it also made me to realise that sufficient checks of sharps equipment and bins need take place before drug rounds to prevent injuries.
I used my experience to develop a tool to help me remember to do this and now use my own template of SHARPS every drug round:
Setting = is the setting suitable for injections? Is there enough space for a sharps bin? Is the distance from the injection site to the sharps bin adequate?
Hazards = is the sharps bin full? Has the equipment been tested for faults?
Accuracy = what type of injection is this: subcutaneous or IM? Have I followed the protocol and understood the necessity of aseptic technique and safe needle use?
Re-tracting/re-sheathing = is the needle retractable? If so, do I know how and when to retract it? Have I taken all necessary precautions to ensure that I do not have to re-sheath the needle?
Protection = are gloves ready? Do I need to wear any other protective clothing? Is the patient protected from needle re-entry in other sites?
Safety = is it still safe to proceed with the injection? Have I taken all precautions necessary?
I hope my experiences will show students that even though it is worrying when things go wrong, you can learn so much from this type of event. Your newly gained insight and knowledge will help you develop in to a nurse who has a better awareness of their limitations.
Callum Metcalfe is studying Adult nursing at University of East Anglia and about to enter his second year