A nursing assistant has to regularly handle sharp and pointed objects like needles, syringes, fingerstick devices, infusion sets and insulin pens for different procedures:
- Needles and syringes are used for injecting drugs.
- Fingerstick devices are used to obtain drops of blood for testing, especially for diabetic patients.
- Infusion sets are used to inject medicines.
- Insulin pens are used for self-injection in diabetic patients.
These sharp and pointed devices can cut and puncture the skin. In medical terminology, these devices are called ‘sharps’.
When handling sharps, the following actions should be taken:
- Ensure you are wearing gloves when handling sharps.
- Handle the devices in such a way that does not injure others.
- Where possible, use instruments to grasp sharps, or place them in a basin instead of hand-to-hand passage.
- Announce verbally when passing sharps to each other.
- Do not recap, bend or break needles after use.
Sharps should be disposed immediately after use and should not be left out in the open, as they contain residual blood and fluids. Used needles are dangerous if not disposed of carefully, as they can injure others and spread infections like Hepatitis B and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
As a rule, all used sharps should be dropped and not pushed into a FDA-cleared sharps container. These containers are made of plastic and are puncture-resistant. Sharps should not be disposed in recycling bins or flushed down the toilet, as doing so can put the janitors or sewage workers at risk.
In case one is accidentally stuck by any used sharps, the following actions should be taken immediately:
- Wash the injured area immediately with water and soap.
- Apply an antiseptic – alcohol or hand sanitizer on the injured area.
- Get medical attention.