Management of sharps in ambulance care: A state-wide survey of paramedic knowledge and reported practice
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Paramedics are at high risk of exposure to infectious diseases because they frequently undertake procedures such as the use and disposal of sharps as components of everyday practice. While the literature demonstrates that the management of sharps is problematic across all health disciplines, there is a paucity of research examining sharps management practices in the Australian pre-hospital paramedic context. This study examines knowledge and practices of sharps control among paramedics in Queensland, Australia. A mail survey focusing on infection control knowledge and practices was sent to all clinical personnel of the Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) (N = 2274). A total of 1258 surveys were returned, a response rate of 55.3%. Participants responded to 12 true/false statements on the management of sharps and three questions about recapping practices. Most respondents were knowledgeable about the correct management of sharps, with a mean of 11.28 (out of 12, SD = 1.32). When gauging reported practices, more than half (59.1%, n = 736) of participants reported recapping a needle, and 38.5% (n = 479) reported never having done so. These results reflect good knowledge of general management of sharps among respondents, but suggest deficits regarding reported practices. The results suggest that a comprehensive ambulance in-service education programme focusing particularly on sharps management is required. The study highlights the need for further research on sharps management practices in the field, identification of barriers to safe sharps practices in pre-hospital settings, and 'best practice' for translating good sharps management knowledge into practice.
Australian Infection Control