Massachusetts has about 150,000 licensed nurses and nearly 30,000 physicians in active practice. Although well-prepared by safety training and a reliance on caution, the risk of sustaining an occupational injury or infection remains high for members of the health care field. 

As noted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, health care workers face exposure to dangerous organisms through skin punctures caused by sharp instruments such as syringes and scalpels. First responders and other public safety workers are also at risk for incurring puncture wounds that may cause infections. 

Coming in contact with infected blood 

An infectious pathogen may not immediately manifest itself in symptoms after what might have amounted to no more than a small puncture wound. An injured employee may feel fine and continue working through his or her shift. An accidental finger skin puncture or cut, however, requires immediate treatment to prevent a life-threatening condition from developing. 

Ignoring a small needle prick, for example, could result in a health care worker contracting a serious disease such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C or HIV. An injured employee may also unknowingly transmit the infectious pathogen to other employees or patients within the facility. 

The CDC estimates that more than 600,000 health care workers experience sharps-related injuries yearly. As many as half of the needlestick injuries may go unreported. 

Reporting a sharps incident and seeking treatment 

Experiencing a workplace accident requires reporting the incident to a manager or supervisor as soon as possible. An injured employee may need to seek medical treatment and take time off from work to recover. Under certain circumstances, a sharps injury could require several months of testing and monitoring to determine whether an employee contracted a bloodborne infection. 

Doctors, nurses and other health care workers in Massachusetts may file for workers’ compensation benefits when injured or made ill by their work. The benefits provided through an approved claim can make available the financial support required for treatment and recovery.