Never recap a needle.

If you're a nurse, or do any work with needles, you know where this post is headed...

I remember when I was a student nurse and first heard, "Never recap a needle." While it made sense theoretically in my head, I had a hard time grasping the concept of carrying an exposed needle across a room to a sharps container, at least the ones that didn't have their own safety mechanism. Nevertheless, I obeyed, though it never became second nature to me to not cover a needle instantaneously with its cap laying around.

Fast forward to today in my office. Lunchtime at my new school is total chaos: kids coming in excitedly showing me fallen teeth, crying kids complaining of "broken knees," and, at the center, my two diabetics. In the whirlwind of things today, I poked Mr. High Maintenance with his unit of insulin. The sharps container is away in a cupboard, and among the chaos I set the needle down on a tall set of drawers (Mistake #1). I was putting away the insulin and at chest level saw the needle laying around. Obviously not really thinking about what I was doing, I recapped it while I was talking to a kid (Mistake #2). The problem was I didn't really recap it. The needle bent, and when I looked down to see why the needle hadn't clicked into its cap, I could see I had just delivered my very first needlestick injury.

I washed it, and then hung my head in shame as I called my coordinator about it. She had me call the workplace injury hotline for a report, and said they would likely be sending me to the local hospital for a blood draw. I called the hotline and gave my report, thoroughly expecting to be directed to the hospital. Instead, she thanked me for my report, apparently not aware of bloodborne pathogens. While I was thankful for not being sent to the lab immediately - I didn't have time for such frivolous activity today - this means I'll have to go get a blood test on my own. I suppose that's okay too, it was my mistake and I intend to own it.

I made it through nursing school without a medication error, which I imagine would have felt as I do now: incredibly, unbelievably stupid. And unless you are a nurse that made a mistake as dumb as this (if there was one thing drilled into my head in nursing school, I'm pretty sure it was to never recap), it's probably hard to understand how much of an idiot I feel like today. Worse, as a relatively young nurse, I can't even claim, "Well, that's the way we used to do it."

That said, I generally get over things pretty quickly with a c'est la vie philosophy, and live and learn. I have a good feeling I will never recap a needle again.

As a total aside, thank you Gina for giving me my 15 minutes! Terribly embarrassing to happen at the same time as this humiliating post, but, on the bright side, maybe someone will learn from me: do not ever recap a needle!

1 comment:

  1. Ouch on many levels... yet I want you know we had a nurse with 25 years experience stick herself a few weeks ago (administering Insulin no less)... these things happen.