Sept. 10-16, 1999
U.Va. gets $4 million cancer grant
Curry School bringing classroom technology to Bermuda
Improvements made for checking children's hearing

From the desk of. . .Tom Gausvik

Hot Links -- slave life
U.Va. Patents Foundation upgrades operations
Making hospitals safer workplaces
A solution for broken hearts
Free guide offered for sexual assault survivors
Conference on health-care ethics Sept. 16-17

Robertson Media Center open house Sept. 17

Johanna Drucker appointed to media studies chair
Newly digitized language lab makes learning a piece of kuchen

Off the Shelf

Benefit concert for Living Wage Campaign


Making hospitals safer workplaces

Stephanie Gross
Janine Jagger (right) holds the needle she and Dr. Richard Pearson patented.

By Charles Feigenoff

For all the high-tech advances in medical techniques introduced during the last 25 years, the needle remains the most commonly used tool in American hospitals. It is also the most deadly. Hollow-bore needles, like the syringes and intravenous devices we have all seen in doctors' offices, are designed specifically to pierce the skin. As a result, it is difficult even for experienced health care workers to handle used nedles without running the risk of pricking themselves.

Although thousands of health care workers have developed hepatitis B and other serious diseases from needle sticks -- and hundreds have died -- it was the AIDS epidemic that destroyed the medical community's complacency. While only a handful of health care workers have contracted AIDS from needle-stick injuries, the danger was clear.

Janine Jagger, now director of the International Health Care Worker Safety Research and Resource Center, took on the challenge about 10 years ago. With colleagues in the U.Va. Health System, she produced a landmark study of needle-stick injuries, published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Among Jagger's findings: health care workers most often injured themselves when attempting to recap needles.

But Jagger not only defined the problem, she showed others where solutions might lie. "When you have a product-related injury, one of the most effective approaches is to modify the product," she says. Consequently, even before her study appeared, Jagger and medical school colleagues Richard Pearson and Patrice Guyenet designed a needle that could retract into a sleeve after being used. There are now over 100 patented designs for safer needles, but Jagger's five patents were among the first.

Jagger subsequently developed EpiNet, an easy-to-use software program that enables hospitals to record and analyze information about needle-stick injuries systematically. This work led to the formation of the International Health Care Worker Safety Research and Resource Center in the Medical School, supported by Becton Dickinson, Johnson & Johnson and other manufacturers.


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