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Exposure rate of needlestick and sharps injuries among Australian veterinarians

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Author(s): Leggat Peter | Smith Derek | Speare Richard

Journal: Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology
ISSN 1745-6673

Volume: 4;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 25;
Date: 2009;
Original page

ABSTRACT
Abstract Background Needlestick and sharps injuries (NSI) represent an important occupational health issue in veterinary practice. Little is known about the distribution and correlates of NSI among Australian veterinarians. Methods A questionnaire-based NSI survey was mailed to 1094 veterinarians registered with the Veterinary Surgeons Board of Queensland during 2006. Results A total of 664 surveys were returned from 1038 eligible participants (response rate 64.0%) with 56.8% being male, around one-third in the >50 years age group and about half aged 31-50 years. Just over two-fifths were working in small animal practice only. Around three quarters (75.3%) reported suffering at least one NSI in the previous 12 months, while 58.9% reported suffering from at least one contaminated NSI during the previous 12 months, which crudely extrapolates to an exposure rate of 75.3 and 58.9 NSI per 100 person-years respectively. Risk factors for contaminated NSI were female gender, working in small or mixed animal practice, being less experienced, seeing more patients per week and working longer hours per week. The most common causative devices were syringes (63.7%), suture needles (50.6%) and scalpel blades (34.8%). Conclusion The exposure rate of NSI is high for Queensland veterinarians and clearly remains a major occupational health problem. Current guidelines and strategies to reduce NSI in veterinary practice should be promoted, but appear to be adapted from human health care. Studies to understand why veterinarians have such high NSI rates are required to not only identify risk factors for NSI, but also to determine attitudes and beliefs about NSI. From these studies specific strategies for veterinarians can be designed and trialed to develop evidence-based guidelines and policies that are effective in decreasing the exposure rate of NSI in veterinary practice.
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