Needle Reuse Reported by 12 Percent of Physicians

A survey of doctors and nurses suggests that the practice occurs in a disturbing number of health care facilities.



A sizeable minority of health care providers say they work at medical facilities where syringes are being reused on multiple patients, according to the results of a recent study. A survey of 370 physicians and 320 nurses found that 12.4 percent of physicians and three percent of nurses reported that syringes were being reused on more than one patient. More disturbing, five percent of physicians reported this practice happened “usually or all of the time” where they work. This unsanitary practice runs the risk of spreading a host of bloodborne pathogens between patients, including hepatitis and HIV.

The survey was conducted by researchers for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and published in the American Journal of Infection Control.

While respondents answered anonymously, there have been several recorded incidents of syringe misuse in U.S. hospitals. In 2014, for example, there were three newsworthy incidents:

-More than 4,000 Long Island residents received notice that staff at South Nassau Community Hospital had reused insulin pens on multiple patients
-An inspection uncovered that a VA hospital in Buffalo had reused insulin pens
-Griffin Hospital in Connecticut warned some 1,300 people that it had identified insulin pen reuse

While many healthcare facilities offer excellent, safe care for people with diabetes, it’s a good idea for people with diabetes to do what they can to make sure they’re safe in a hospital setting. Here are some actions you can take to lower the risk of medical mishaps:

-Designate someone in your inner circle to advocate on your behalf in a hospital setting, and make sure they have all the information needed to do so effectively
-See if it’s possible to use your own diabetes self-care supplies, when appropriate
-When there’s a shift change, ask for a check-in with the next nurse or doctor on duty to make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to your diabetes care
-Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and do so often

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Craig Idlebrook is a past editor for Insulin Nation, Type 2 Nation, and Información Sobre Diabetes. He is now the community engagement and content manager for T1D Exchange.