Needlestick Safety Tips for Respiratory Therapists

Blood gas analyzers have become extremely automated in their sampling capabilities in recent years, all but eliminating the odds of human error.

However, making certain everything is working properly remains the charge of an expertly trained respiratory therapist in most cases.

RTs also still draw blood from the patient, making ongoing education about needlestick safety a a priority for staff.

in addition to staff education, needlestick injuries can be curtailed through proper vigilance and proactivity. Here are some basics to consider, when trying to reduce the incidence of this occupational hazard:

Begin with preparation

Education on how to handle all sharps devices that healthcare workers use is essential. It is vital that we understand the safest procedures and protocols to use the sharps device as well as the correct way to activate the safety device intended for that particular needle.

SEE ALSO: The Expanding Role of RCPs


Select needles and sharps with safety in mind. We recently trialed a new manufacturer of blood drawing needles and tube holders at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire, Wis.

Originally, these devices were selected because they cost less than our previous supplier. However, it quickly became evident that the new needles had safety devices that were more difficult to use.

After compiling a list of reasons why these devices were not as safe as what we were using previously, we switched back to the safer devices. There are many needleless IV systems and transfer devices available.

Needleless systems, when available, should always be evaluated.


Educate your staff on potential troublesome devices. The CDC and OSHA publish data on which sharps injuries are most prone to needlesticks.

The disposable syringe with a needle attached and the winged needle (butterfly needle) are the two most common needles to cause injury to their users. Awareness of the hazards can help reduce needlestick injuries.


Investigate needlestick injuries and complete process improvement steps where needed.

It’s vital for healthcare facilities to compile data on who, what, where, why and how these injuries occur. Look for trends and seek opportunities for improvement, particularly by examining the situations with a higher potential for injury.

Do not solely rely on published data. Your institution may have a systemic training issue or poor initial selection of a sharps device that could be changed.

Take Your Time

Slow down. Act safely. Be safe.

Most injuries occur because we are rushing or stressed at that moment the needlestick occurs.

Make every potential sharps situation safer by being aware of all uncapped needles and their hazard potential.

James Sorenson, MT (ASCP), is the core laboratory supervisor/education coordinator at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire, Wis.

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