In the course of my first internship, I accidentally sustained a needle stick injury while testing a patient for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). As a medical practitioner, I was aware that this was perhaps the most common form of occupational exposure to patients’ blood so I was not alarmed by the incident (Celenza, et al., 2011). Nonetheless, I was at risk of contracting other blood-borne infections apart from HIV, particularly, hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV).
Intuitively, I immediately took care of the wound and reported the incident to my immediate supervisor. I let the wound bleed for a few seconds and cleansed it thoroughly with a saline solution. I also disinfected it with plenty of soap and 70% alcohol. My supervisor commended me for my quick response and advised me to seek further attention from the department that specialized in occupational accidents for proper registration and management of the incident.
The department took a blood sample, which was to act as a baseline value to determine wither the incident had resulted in an infection by one of the aforementioned viruses. I was surprised to learn that the sample would be kept for at least one year. However, it would only be analyzed if they wanted to determine whether I had been infected at the workplace during this particular incident. Further blood samples were later collected after one, six and twelve months to test for HIV, HBV and HCV.
Luckily for me, the source of the blood was known so the patient was requested to sample more blood for HBV and HCV tests. Fortunately, the patient was willing to provide a sample. Had she refused, it would have been assumed that she was a carrier of either virus. If the source of the blood was unknown, then the department would have been forced to extract the blood from the needle for serological examination.
Even though I plan to be extra careful in future, if a similar incident were to reoccur I would handle it the exact same way. My supervisor and the occupational accidents department was also very helpful because they enabled me to take the right course of action after the accident. This experience strengthened my faith in the hospital’s emergency system because of the manner in which they responded to the incident. I was fortunate not to have been infected by any of the viruses, but if it would have happened, I am sure that the department would have made deliberate efforts to limit the infection risk from the virus that would have been identified.
From this experience I learnt that situations involving exposure to viruses and other pathogenic microorganisms should be prioritized and handled with care to minimize the risk of infection. Having come close to contracting the aforementioned viruses, I will be very careful while handling patients in future. Moreover, I will be in a better position to advise and help colleagues who find themselves in similar situations. The knowledge I had acquired from prior academic experience relating to dressing and treatment of wounds and the types of infections that are transmitted through blood proved to be invaluable when the incident occurred. The actions I took were particularly inspired by two journal articles written by Celenza, et al., (2011) and Jagger, Berguer, Phillips, Parker, & Gomaa (2011).
Celenza, A., D’Orsogna, L. J., Tosif, S. H., Bateman, S. M., O’Brien, D., French, M. A., & Martinez, O. P. (2011). Audit of emergency department assessment and management of patients presenting with community-acquired needle stick injuries. Australian Health Review, 35(1), 57-62.
Jagger, J., Berguer, R., Phillips, E. K., Parker, G., & Gomaa, A. E. (2011). Increase in Sharps Injuries in Surgical Settings Versus Nonsurgical Settings After Passage of National Needlestick Legislation. AORN Journal, 93(3), 322–330.
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