Support for operating room personnel after a sharps injury
Van Heerden, Christelle
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Sharps injuries can transmit fatal blood-borne infections to injured health care workers. These blood-borne infections have serious consequences, including long-term illness, disability and death. The operating room is a fast-paced, hazardous working environment, where personnel are constantly exposed to sharps injuries. The psychological aspects of these injuries have received little attention. The emotional impact of a sharps injury can be severe and long lasting, even when a serious infection is not transmitted. Furthermore, according to literature, the mean rates of underreporting sharps injuries vary between twenty two and seventy five percent. The research objectives of this qualitative, explorative and descriptive study were to explore and describe the experiences of operating room personnel in the southern district of the North-West province in South Africa after sharps injuries, to explore and describe the reasons why they do not always report these incidents, to explore and describe what could be done to increase reporting of sharps incidents in operating rooms by personnel and to propose guidelines to support operating room personnel after a sharps injury. In order to achieve these objectives, the researcher gathered data by conducting semi-structured interviews with operating room personnel who had experienced sharps injuries in hospitals of the southern districts of the North-West in South Africa. Ethical considerations were adhered to by the researcher. Permission to conduct research was negotiated by the researcher with management of the hospitals in the target area. Voluntary, informed consent in writing was obtained from all participants before interviews were conducted. Data saturation was reached after 17 interviews were conducted with participants. Data were analysed with the help of an experienced co-coder. The researcher and co-coder reached consensus during a meeting organised for the purpose. Then the data were related to relevant literature. Seven categories emerged from the data analysis: Mechanisms of sharps injuries in the operating room, practical measures taken after a sharps injury, reasons for not reporting all sharps injuries, emotions experienced after a sharps injury, impact of sharps injuries on relationships, the support received by participants after a sharps injury and their coping mechanisms after a sharps injury. Several conclusions were drawn by the researcher from the data. Although all hospitals in this study had a reporting system in place, operating room personnel participating in this study did not report all their sharps injuries. They received no or insufficient support from hospital management after a sharps injury. No or insufficient communication existed between hospital management and participants in this study after these incidents. From these findings the researcher proposed guidelines for support to operating room personnel after sharps injuries and to increase the reporting of these incidents. The researcher also compiled recommendations for nursing practice, nursing education and nursing research in the operating room.
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