* * Anonymous Doc

Friday, September 17, 2010

And sometimes you're just lucky.

Last night of night float. Last admission in the morning. I got assigned the pleasant elderly man with pneumonia. My co-resident got the HIV-positive homeless guy.

And while taking his blood,

She accidentally stuck herself with the needle.

This is a known hazard of the job. She should be fine-- the odds (and I've been googling this) seem to be about 0.3% that she'll actually get infected, and this was a superficial injury from an asymptomatic patient, so the numbers are probably even lower than that-- but she has to take six weeks of post-exposure prophylactic meds just in case. And they have side effects, and she'll feel pretty terrible for the next six weeks -- headaches, diarrhea, fatigue. It's pretty awful, and stressful, and concerning.

And scares me more than reading the story about the surgeon who got shot at Johns Hopkins, to be honest. I don't expect I'm at risk of getting shot by too many patient family members. But an accidental needle stick from an HIV-positive patient is not unusual, and is seriously frightening. And it's really only the luck of the draw that it wasn't me. I could have just as easily been assigned that patient, and after 13 hours of being awake through the night, I could have just as easily stuck myself. It took me what seemed like twenty tries to get my elderly patient's blood -- I couldn't keep my hand steady, I was ready to fall asleep, to pass out, whatever. So I totally could have stuck myself with the needle by accident. And if I'd had the other patient, I'd be the one taking the antivirals and feeling awful for the next six weeks.



  1. why are you drawing blood and not a phlebotomist?

  2. Dude, having been an idiot that got 45 minutes a day of sleep for weeks until collapses, ER visits, and seizures went to town on me - and with probable brain damage as a result, nothing was found and I'm more susceptible now - there has gotta be someone you can talk to and/or negotiate with to ensure you - and others - are safe practitioners.

    Shouldn't be flying a friggin' bed when you get so tired you shake like that. I'd refuse treatment if I saw it and have your superiors keelhauled.

    Just a friendly warning. What happens if you screw up someday? I quit...because I wouldn't keep endangering people commuting to work and blacking out, or running power equipment when I could barely stand.

    Think about it. Safety for you, your underlings, your patients, and your personal bottom line should be paramount.

    We don't go to hospitals for a friggin' roll of the dice and gamble that we might get healed if they don't screw up first...

    Good, however, to see a doc that dedicated. Less every day, IMO.