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Nursing students' knowledge and practices related to sharp object injury and management at a university in the Western Cape Province
Amer, Ramadan Khalifa
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Background: Like other health care providers, nursing students are unprotected from occupational dangers such as sharp object injuries (SOIs) due to imperfect knowledge and experience. These students face a great risk of exposure to blood borne infections by pathogens such as HIV and the hepatitis B and C viruses while executing their clinical actions in hospitals. SOIs are a significant problem for nursing students, as they increase the risk of contracting blood-borne infections. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine nursing students' knowledge and practices related to SOIs and their management at a university in the Western Cape Province. Objectives: The objectives of this study include determining the occurrence of SOIs, and knowledge of risk of SOIs, as well as the reporting and management of SOIs at a university in the Western Cape. Method and sample: A cross-sectional descriptive survey was conducted with nursing students from the second to fourth year of study, registered at a university in the Western Cape Province for the 2017 academic year. Quota sampling was applied to select respondents who, after providing informed consent, then completed and handed the self- administered questionnaires back to the researcher on the same day that they were distributed. Data were obtained from nursing students about whether or not they had experienced an SOI, what they did after the SOI, their perception of the risk, and management of and preventive measures for SOIs. Validity and reliability were ensured, and all ethical principles were adhered to. SPSS was used for the quantitative data analysis. Results: A total of 252 nursing students from the second to fourth years participated in this study. The average age of respondents was 24 years, with a minimum of 19 and maximum of 46 years; 211 (83.7%) of them were females. During their course 63 (25%) respondents experienced SOIs; only 42 (66.67%; N=63) of them reported the occurrence of an SOI, most (25 or 59.52%) reporting it to the professional nurse in charge. The highest occurrence of SOIs was reported by fourth-year students (26 respondents, 41.3%). It was found that 21 (33.3%) of SOIs were not reported, and the main reason for this was because there was little or no perception of associated risk (15, 71.43%). Forty-six (73.02%) respondents experienced a single SOI, while 11 (17.46%) had two SOIs, 4 (6.35%) reported having had three SOIs, and one each (1.59%) had more than four and more than ten SOIs. The activity causing most of the SOIs was administration of medication by injection (48 cases, 76.2%), and in most cases (57, 90.47%) the instruments causing injury were needles or hollow-bore needles. Most of the affected respondents squeezed the puncture site after the SOI (42, 66.7%), followed by washing the area with water and soap (40; 63.5%), and cleaning the site with antiseptic (15, 23.8%). Among those students exposed to SOIs, only 22 (52.4%) had undergone blood tests, and very few of them took post-exposure prophylaxis or treatment (16, 25.40%). The emotion that most of them felt after the SOI was fear (42, 66.7%), and the main reason for not getting treatment was fear of side effects (18, 38.29%). Also, only 61 (24.2%) respondents reported recapping needles after use, while most reported incomplete vaccination against hepatitis B (195, 77.38%). The main reason for not using personal protective equipment (PPE) was noted as the unavailability thereof at the institution (43, 49.4%). Conclusion: This study documented a low rate of reporting SOIs among nursing students. It is plain that there are inadequate levels of knowledge and practice related to SOI management among these students at a university in the Western Cape. One would imagine that because the majority of nursing students had a measure for the practice of universal precautions and used PPE, their management after exposure to SOIs during work training in hospital would be efficient. This was not the instance in this study, where application of these actions in their practical training was poor.