As a health care worker, you may be at increased risk for a sharps injury. Such an injury occurs when you come in contact with an improperly disposed-of needle that penetrates the skin. Sharps injuries are dangerous because they can expose you to bloodborne pathogens such as hepatitis B or C, as well as human immunodeficiency virus. 

The facility where you work should have safety measures in place to reduce the risk of sharps injuries. However, accidents may sometimes occur despite these measures. If you ever do sustain a sharps injury, the Centers for Disease Control offers information about what your next steps should be. 

1. Find a wash station

Your facility should have wash stations available at strategic locations for urgent situations like a sharps injury. You should be aware of these locations before you require a wash station. 

2. Clean the wound

Spend 15 minutes washing out any puncture wounds with soap and water. 

3. Stop the bleeding

If the wound is still bleeding after you have washed it, you can control the blood flow with direct pressure on the wound. 

4. Seek medical attention

If there is a risk of exposure to HIV or hepatitis B from the injury, you may require post-exposure prophylaxis. PEP for hepatitis B involves vaccinations, which you should receive within 24 hours. For possible HIV exposure, you should first receive antiretroviral medication within hours of the incident and continue for a course of four weeks, depending on your tolerance. There is no recommended PEP for hepatitis C exposure.

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.