Tuesday, July 7, 2015

I've been stuck by a dirty needle -- now what?

Have you ever wondered what happens when you get a needle stick?  You know you’re supposed to report to Student Health immediately, but then what?

When a student comes in with a needle stick or exposure to a patient’s blood or body fluids, we kick in to action. 

First we go to the patient room and draw blood from your source patient.  ("Source Patient" is what we call the person who was the source of blood or body fluids to which you have been exposed.)  Right away that blood goes to the KU lab and is tested for HIV.  Normally we know within an hour whether the source patient is infected with HIV.  That’s important because you would need to start medication within a certain number of hours to prevent HIV.  As soon as we know whether your source patient has HIV, we call you and let you know.  

Your source patient will also be tested for Hepatitis B and C, but those tests are not done stat and will usually come back the next day.

Next, we talk to you about the exposure incident.  We fill out confidential, anonymous paperwork with details of how you came in to contact with a patient’s blood or body fluid.  The paperwork is used to compile a report that is sent to the hospital so that future needle sticks or exposures might be prevented.  We will ask you if you have any suggestions about how your exposure could have been prevented.  This protects other students and healthcare providers in the future.  Sometimes there’s no obvious way that the exposure could have been prevented.  That’s OK.  If the reports reveal a pattern, that’s helpful too.

After we complete the paperwork, your blood is drawn to determine your baseline.  You are tested for HIV and Hepatitis C.  If we don’t have proof of your immunity to Hepatitis B, you are tested for that also.  When you come to Student Health right away, it is too early for your blood to be affected by a needle stick or other exposure, that’s why your blood work serves as a baseline.     

We want you to know that your name is not reported.  All your lab work is sent in anonymously.  I’ve had students worry that they might be punished or dismissed from school because of a needle stick or exposure.  That is never the case. 

It’s also important to know that you will not be charged for any of the costs associated with the needle stick.  Needle sticks or exposures are relatively common events, and your program of study expects to pay for a certain number of events throughout the year.    

I hope you never have a needle-stick or splash, but if you do, come to Student Health right away so you can be assured of the proper follow up.

My name is Jennifer Blanck, RN, and I am always happy to hear from students and help in any way I can. Feel free to give me a call if you have any questions regarding your requirements. My direct line is 913-588-2018.