oa South African Family Practice - The pattern of sharps injury to health care workers at Witbank Hospital : original research



The aim of this study was to identify procedures, areas of activity, occupational groups and other variables that carry a high risk of transmission of bloodborne infections from patients to healthcare workers (HCWs) at Witbank Hospital.

This was a descriptive cross-sectional study, conducted among HCWs of Witbank Hospital who were directly involved in patient care over the two-year period under consideration (1.01.03 - 31.12.04). A directed questionnaire was used to carry out the study.
A total of 435 HCWs completed the questionnaire.
  1. A total of 46.7% of respondents had suffered from either needlestick/sharps injury (74.47%) or contamination of skin/mucous membranes (25.53%).
  2. A total of 76.9% of all needlestick/sharps injuries were inflicted by injection needles.
  3. Taking blood was the most dangerous procedure/activity: it was responsible for 29.56% of all injuries.
  4. A total of 44.61% of injured HCWs reported one injury, 45.59% reported two to three injuries and 9,8% were injured more than three times.
  5. The youngest interviewed group (20-29 years old) was injured most frequently (61.9%).
  6. Professional nurses, who are the largest professional group employed at the hospital, were involved in 41.38% of all reported injuries.
  7. House doctors reported the highest rates of injury: 84.37% of them were injured at least once.

This study showed that there is a well-defined pattern of injuries that can lead to transmission of bloodborne infections from patients to HCWs at Witbank Hospital. The areas of activity, procedures and occupational groups that result in a high risk of transmission of bloodborne infections to HCWs were identified, and will be used to design the preventive strategies.


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