The Stress of Needlestick Injuries

Needlestick injuries (NSI’s) are a common hazard in every dental practice. The potential health effects are obvious. Not so easy to see are the emotional and psychological consequences.

Just as unsettling as the memory of being stuck is the time you have to wait for blood draw results. The uncertainty of infection status after an injury can put healthcare workers in a state of mental unrest. Even if they haven’t contracted a life-threatening illness, that stress can have long-lasting effects.


The Most Common Stress Disorders Associated with NSI’s

The American Psychiatric Association defines Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a psychiatric disorder that may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a serious accident. The extent of the mental impact of stress varies from person to person but can lead to anxiety and depression. 

You might have heard of PTSD before. There’s another less-known affliction that’s found in people overcoming needlestick injuries. It’s called Adjustment Disorder (AD). People with AD can experience symptoms such as stress, feeling sad or hopeless, anxiety, and physical symptoms such as headaches and stomachaches. With AD, it can feel like the reaction is stronger than you expected for the traumatic event you went through.


Offer Emotional Counseling

Whatever degree of stress you or your staff has after a needlestick injury is natural and should be rightfully attended to. Having an environment where no one is ashamed of seeking any medical assistance is critical. Practices’ should offer several ways to receive counseling. Remember, their needlestick trauma has affected them beyond the workplace. Explaining the severe implications of this type of injury to their families has caused additional stress. The sooner you address their mental safety, the better.


Get a Safer Needle

You can help eliminate sharps injuries from happening in the first place by adopting safer devices. Luckily, there’s a new needle on the market that was built with safety in mind. The SimpleCAP needle system is a safer solution than traditional needles from end-to-end. Its patented design adds safety during assembly, usage, recapping, disassembly, and disposal for assistants, hygienists, and dentists. It’s easy to use with threading that is built into the hub so the needle glides and becomes tight only when it bottoms out—making it clear when it is and is not secure. It’s also less intimidating because it covers and obscures the needle except when it’s being used, reducing fear and anxiety during the delivery experience.


Doing these two things for you and your staff will help ensure that everyone gets home safely, with less stress, at the end of the day. 

Updated on

October 9, 2020

Authored by:

Dr. Kathy Schrubbe | Dir. of OSHA and infection control

Katherine Schrubbe BSDH MEd PhD is an adjunct professor at Marquette University School of Dentistry and Director of Quality Assurance for Dental Associates. With 30+ years in dental education Schrubbe is a regular speaker of continuing education courses on infection control and Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations. She was the 2003 recipient of the American Association of Dental Research William B. Clark Award for Clinical Research.