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'Sharps' injury as traumatic as car crash

The psychiatric distress caused by having a 'sharps' injury is consistent with being in a car crash, a study has revealed. 

Published in the journal Occupational Medicine, the study explored the psychological effects of needlestick injuries, which can affect an estimated 100,000 people per year. 

The study compared levels of depression and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in people who had a 'sharps' injury with a control group who had suffered a different psychiatric trauma. 

The researchers found that although none of the participants contracted an infection from their injury, psychiatric illness and distress lasted close to two months longer for every month the patient waited for test results. 

“The chances of physical damage  are what are focused on by society, but these risks are in reality very small,” said lead researcher Professor Ben Green. 

He said: “The main health implication of needlestick incidents is probably psychiatric injury caused by fear and worry.”

The Society of Occupational Medicine (SOM) has called for a much greater awareness of the psychiatric and physical effects of needle stick injuries. 

Workers who experience a needle stick injury need fast access to occupational health support, rapid results from blood tests and access to psychological support where appropriate, according to SOM. 

Dr Richard Heron, SOM president said: “We need to reduce the incidence of needle stick injuries by raising awareness, education and making safer equipment available but we also need to ensure that people have rapid access to post-exposure support  - including psychological help if needed.”

A full version of Psychiatric consequences of needlestick injury is available to view on the Occupational Medicine website. 


Nursing in Practice asks: Have you ever had a sharps injury?