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Sharps injuries within the healthcare student population: a narrative review

07 December 2023
Volume 32 · Issue 22



Studies have reported evidence on sharps injuries among nursing, medical and dental students but little is known about the amount, type and causes of sharps injuries affecting other healthcare students.


The aim of the narrative review was to identify the extent, type and causes of sharps injuries sustained by healthcare students, especially those not in those fields.


Eight databases were searched using keywords to identify studies published between 1980 and March 2023.


This narrative review highlights that some groups of healthcare students, including those studying pharmacy, physiotherapy and radiography, sustain sharps injuries from similar devices as reported in research on such injuries in nursing, medical and nursing students. Sharps injuries happen in a range of healthcare environments, and many were not reported by students. The main cause of a sharps injury identified was a lack of knowledge.


More research is needed on the extent of sharps injuries in healthcare students in European countries and the UK as well as on their physical and psychological effects. Education and training in sharps use and disposal are essential.

Medical sharps are needles, blades (such as scalpels) and other medical instruments used in healthcare procedures that could cause an injury by cutting or pricking the skin (Health and Safety Executive (HSE) (2023). Sharps injuries are reported by 3.5 million healthcare workers worldwide every year (Fadil et al, 2021), with each injury costing between $650 and $750 (£519 and £599) several years ago (Mannocci et al, 2016). These figures, however, do not take into account litigation or compensation so are an underestimation of the true cost. The total costs, financial and other, are difficult to estimate as they include: the emotional cost related to fear and anxiety over the possible consequences of an exposure; the direct and indirect costs related to drug toxicities; time absent from work; and the societal cost linked with an HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C seroconversion (Hambridge et al, 2020).

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