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Needlestick Injuries Among Medical Students: Incidence and Implications

Sharma, Giriraj K. MS; Gilson, Marta M. PhD; Nathan, Hari MD; Makary, Martin A. MD, MPH

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181bf9e5f
Quality and Safety

Purpose To determine the incidence of needlestick injuries in medical school and to examine the behaviors associated with reporting injuries to an occupational health office. Medical students have underdeveloped surgical skills and are at high risk of needlestick injuries.

Method Recent medical school graduates enrolled in a surgery residency at 17 medical centers were surveyed regarding needlestick injuries that they sustained during medical school. The survey asked about the circumstances and cause of injury and postinjury reporting.

Results Of 699 respondents, 415 (59%) reported having sustained a needlestick injury as a medical student; the median number of injuries per injured respondent was 2 (interquartile range: 1-2). Respondents who sustained a needlestick injury in medical school were more likely to sustain a needlestick injury during residency than those who did not experience a needlestick injury in medical school (odds ratio [OR]: 2.57; 95% CI: 1.84, 3.58). Of 89 residents who sustained their most recent needlestick injury during medical school, 42 (47%) did not report their injury to an employee health office.

Conclusions Needlestick injuries and underreporting of these injuries are common among medical students and place them at risk for hepatitis and human immunodeficiency virus. Strategies aimed at improving reporting systems and creating a culture of reporting should be implemented by medical centers.

Mr. Sharma is a third-year medical student, George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences, Washington, DC.

Dr. Gilson is assistant professor of surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland.

Dr. Nathan is research fellow of surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland.

Dr. Makary is Mark Ravitch Chair in General Surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland; associate professor of health policy & management, Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland; and director, Johns Hopkins Center for Green Health, Baltimore, Maryland.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Makary, Johns Hopkins Center for Green Health, CRB II, 1550 Orleans Street, #507, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21231; telephone: (410) 502-6845; fax: (410) 502-7050; e-mail: (mmakary1@jhmi.edu).

© 2009 Association of American Medical Colleges