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Sharps injuries: survey suggests one in four nurses receive no safety training

Results show more than 60% receive a sharps injury in their career, RCN says

Results show more than 60% receive a sharps injury in their career, RCN says

More than three in five nursing staff have experienced a sharps injury during their career, and a higher-than-usual number last year, a new survey suggests.

In addition, a quarter of the 7,571 respondents to the RCN survey (1,893) said they had no training on safe sharps use.

Call to improve sharps training

The survey, carried out in November and December 2020 among the college's 450,000 members, found that 15% of nurses, nursing students and nursing associates who responded (1,136) had sustained an injury during sharps use in 2020, up from 10% in 2008. Overall, 63% (4,770) had experienced a sharps injury in their career.

Rose Gallagher

Results show more than 60% receive a sharps injury in their career, RCN says

Picture: iStock

More than three in five nursing staff have experienced a sharps injury during their career, and a higher-than-usual number last year, a new survey suggests.

In addition, a quarter of the 7,571 respondents to the RCN survey (1,893) said they had no training on safe sharps use.

Call to improve sharps training

The survey, carried out in November and December 2020 among the college's 450,000 members, found that 15% of nurses, nursing students and nursing associates who responded (1,136) had sustained an injury during sharps use in 2020, up from 10% in 2008. Overall, 63% (4,770) had experienced a sharps injury in their career.

Rose Gallagher Picture: David Gee

The college suggested that the high figures for 2020 could be as a result of fatigue and stress from the COVID-19 pandemic, and highlighted the need for organisations to improve training.

RCN professional lead for infection prevention and control Rose Gallagher said: ‘We now need to see greater efforts for better reporting and training to not only prevent injuries but to ensure there are stronger procedures to follow-up and protect nursing staff after injuries.

In 2013, new regulations were brought in to reduce sharps injuries but these findings suggest there is still some way to go to protect all parts of the nursing workforce.’

Legal requirement for employers to limit risk

RCN interim director of nursing policy and public affairs Jude Diggins added: ‘Most sharps injuries can be prevented and there are legal requirements on employers to take steps to prevent healthcare staff being exposed to infectious agents from sharps injuries.’

Sharps safety for employers and staff

Adapted from the RCN’s Guidance to support the implementation of The Health and Safety (Sharp Instruments in Healthcare) Regulations 2013.

Employers should:

  • Review existing sharps policies
  • Implement safety-engineered devices to reduce risk of injury
  • Introduce training to prevent sharps injuries

Nurses should:

  • Be familiar with local policies on sharps safety
  • Not recap or resheath used needles
  • Get vaccinated against hepatitis B


Find out more


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