Author – Gina Pugliese, RN MS
Vice President of the Safety Institute, Premier healthcare alliance
It was 20 years ago when I first heard about syringes being reused on multiple patients, followed by a flurry of guidelines cautioning about the need to use a single syringe for each patient. Times change – safe injection practices are not optional – patients deserve better. And yet, in the last ten years, unsafe injection practices have resulted in more than 30 outbreaks of infectious disease across the United States, including hepatitis C, and notification of more than 125,000 patients. In a recent survey my organization, the Premier healthcare alliance, found that syringe reuse and other unsafe injection practices are still occurring today among a small but disturbing percentage US clinicians in various healthcare settings.
But why? Health care providers do not come to work with the intent of harming a patient. Yet, lack of awareness and mistaken beliefs about safe injection practices are putting their patients at risk. As highlighted in our article and a recent CDC commentary by Dr. Joseph Perz, it is NOT true that that contamination only affects the needle and not the syringe. Likewise some providers may not realize that it NOT OK to reuse a syringe if they only inject into IV tubing or to reuse a single dose vial for multiple patients if the vial has leftover medication in it.
What can we do? Patients have a right to expect that they won’t get an infection after an injection. The solution requires public and private sector collaboration to solve this problem. For example, the Premier healthcare alliance is collaborating with the Safe Injection Practices Coalition to bring clinicians, manufacturers, professional groups, governmental agencies, and researchers together for an open meeting today, April 26th in Washington DC. Our intent is to raise awareness and continue the national dialogue on expanding oversight, education, and safer and innovative approaches and product designs to protect patients and prevent infections related to injection practices. I encourage you to visit the CDC’s injection safety website, the Premier Safety Institute and the Safe Injection Practices Coalition where you will find some terrific resources and links to many other groups with useful materials.