Making hospitals safer
Janine Jagger (right) holds the needle she and Dr. Richard Pearson
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.
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.
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