Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.
One time, I worked with a veterinarian who was very much allergic to penicillin, a type of antibiotic (a drug that kills bacteria). She had given a penicillin injection to an animal and then, while trying to put the cap back on the needle, ended up stabbing herself with the needle. There was enough penicillin that entered her bloodstream as a result of this that she had to go to the hospital.
And so, sharps, sharp objects found in a veterinary clinic, like needles and blades, must be handled very carefully. Sometimes it's because a drug reaction may occur. Other times, it's because you may stab yourself with a potentially dangerous microorganism. And in general, it's because getting stabbed or cut with a sharp object can cause physical pain and damage.
Let's take a look at the sharps you'll be coming across in veterinary medicine and how best to handle them in a safe manner so you don't end up going to the hospital.
Sharps: Hazards and Safety
First things first: when handling any sharp objects, always keep them in their protective enclosure unless you need to use them right away. This means all needles should have their protective caps on, and disposable blades should be sheathed in their original packaging.
If at all possible, once you no longer need to use a sharp object, place it in a sharps container, a container specifically designed to hold and dispose of sharp objects. These are red in color, have a biohazard symbol on them and should be found in every clinic you work at.
You should not use things like milk jugs for a sharps container because needles can easily puncture these. This means they can hurt you or, if they fall onto the ground, someone else. Not only that, but also use of improper sharps containers is almost certainly illegal in your local jurisdiction.
Furthermore, when disposing of needles, do not cut off their ends and do not transfer sharps from a smaller container to a larger one. Doing either of these things increases the risk for physical damage to yourself, others and the potential for aerosolizing drugs and microorganisms. That's bad news because inhaling stuff like that is not good for your health.
Also, do not throw any sharp object into the regular trash. This is illegal and highly dangerous. Refuse workers and the general public are placed at great risk of physical, chemical and biological harm if you do this.
Never open up a used sharps container, and never stick your fingers into a sharps container for any reason. I've seen this happen; someone threw something into a sharps by mistake and tries to get it out. Bad idea! There are tons of sharp objects in there, might as well stick your hand in a bag full of venomous snakes instead!
And that also reminds me of one final thing I wanted to mention. Make sure sharps containers aren't overflowing with sharp objects as this increases the likelihood that you'll hurt yourself when putting something in there. Seal and dispose of the sharps container when it's full according to your clinic's policy.
How to Properly Cap a Needle
With the preaching out of the way, I want to end our discussion on the proper way of capping a needle. Technically, I should be saying re-capping a needle because all needles will come sheathed in a plastic cap of one color or another.
If you ever need to take the cap off, always re-cap it as soon as possible. But when you do this, do not recap a needle with two hands. I've seen it countless times: someone holding the cap in one hand and trying to thread the needle into the cap with the other hand ends up stabbing themselves. It takes a while for the blood to stop running when that happens.
Anyways, to properly recap a needle you need to use the 1-handed technique. Follow these steps to protect yourself:
- Put the cap on a flat surface, like a table.
- Using one hand only, thread the needle into the cap.
- Once you have threaded the needle into the cap, only then should you use both hands to firmly press the cap onto the needle to secure it in place.
If the needle was attached to a syringe, dispose of the syringe and needle into a sharps container without removing the needle from the syringe.
Sharps, or sharp objects found in a veterinary clinic, like needles and blades, can really hurt you. If they are laced with a drug, like penicillin a type of antibiotic (a drug that kills bacteria), and you're allergic to it, you might have to go to the hospital.
This is why you should always keep all sharp objects sheathed in their protective packaging when not in use and dispose of them as soon as possible into a sharps container, a container specifically designed to hold and dispose of sharp objects.
When re-capping a needle, always use the 1-handed method, where you place the cap onto a flat surface, like a table, and thread the needle into the cap using one hand only.
When you are finished, you should be able to:
- Explain why a sharps container is important for sharps disposal
- Recall how to handle or use a sharps container
- Describe the three steps to properly cap a needle
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