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Sharps Safety

The smallest needlestick can lead to the greatest of health issues, and as smart as the healthcare industry has become, it can be smarter yet, note experts. "Even the smallest skin puncture caused by a needle or other sharp device can expose healthcare workers or healthcare facility employees to more than 30 bloodborne pathogens, which can cause serious and potentially life-threatening infections," says Angela Karpf, MD, worldwide medical director, BD Medical-Medical Surgical Systems.

"While the direct costs of a needlestick injury can be readily calculated, the human costs cannot," says Stankovic. "Even when there is no transmission of a serious or life-threatening disease, the emotional distress of a NSI can be severe and long-term. This is especially true if the injury involves exposure to [HIV]. The uncertainty of the infection status of the source patient can also create anxiety that may extend to co-workers, friends and family members."

Distributor reps can play a role in their customers' safety, but they need to take the right approach. "Distributor reps who strive first to understand their customer's environment, as well as the terms of the safety legislation, can provide a valuable service by helping customers select the best safety products to meet their clinical and economic needs," says Kathy Sullivan, senior director/marketing, BD Medical-Medical Surgical Systems. "The sales rep should understand the customer's practice and types of procedures before offering any safety-related products. Once sales reps have developed this understanding, they will be in very good position to offer segment-specific solutions. Distributor reps should [also] work with their medical device manufacturers to develop an understanding of appropriate safety-engineered products for each customer segment."

Sullivan recommends several probing questions reps may ask to initiate conversation with their customers:

  • "Doctor, how often do your procedures include skin injections?"
  • "Are you aware of the risks and costs associated with needlestick injuries?"
  • "How does your practice ensure its associates are protected against accidental needle sticks?"
  • "Are you familiar with the legislation requiring facilities to engage frontline healthcare personnel in the evaluation and selection of safety-engineered devices?"
  • "How are you currently complying with needlestick safety legislation?"

Sales reps can further help their customers by providing current literature and educational videos or by directing them to online education programs, says Elizabeth Ann Vencill, MHA, MBA, CLS, MT (ASCP), SLS (ASCP), PBT (ASCP), Memorial Medical Center, Modesto, Calif. "I would also like to see sales reps offer needlestick safety lectures to county boards of supervisors, [as well as] at meetings of peace officers and fire protection officers, Rotary club meetings, Kiwanis [and more], because this is a political and public health issue."