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Needle sticks can be a job hazard for medical students

November 25, 2009 |  3:25 pm

Almost every job has its hazards, but some have more than others. Case in point: medical students and needle-stick injuries.

Kspcyknc A new study finds that medical students often come in too-close contact with needles, possibly putting them at risk for contracting HIV or hepatitis C. But not all report their injuries. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences surveyed 699 surgeons-in-training at 17 general surgery residency programs around the U.S.

Almost 60% said they sustained a needle-stick injury as a medical student, with many suffering two injuries. Of the 89 study participants who had their most recent needle-stick in medical school, a little less than half didn’t report the injury to an employee health service. The most common reason? Filling out a report was too time-consuming.

In this group, the vast majority (92%) of injuries that involved high-risk patients were reported, compared with 47% of needle-sticks involving low-risk patients. Also, 72% said the injury was self-inflicted, and more than half believed the injury stemmed from being rushed.

"Medical schools are not doing enough to protect their students and hospitals are not doing enough to make medical school safe," said lead researcher Dr. Martin Makary, in a news release. The associate professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine added, "We, as a medical community, are putting our least skilled people on the front lines in the most high-risk situations. Most trainees are still forced to learn to sew and stitch on patients, which puts both providers and patients at risk."

The study appears in the December issue of the journal Academic Medicine. Johns Hopkins has a Summary of Current Practice Guidelines for Occupational Exposures to Bloodborne Pathogens.

Photo credit: Ryan Remiorz / AP