Take That Syringe Out of Your Mouth!

Posted: Aug 28, 2012
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Some habits are tough to quit. Chewing your fingernails, picking the olives off your pizza, incessant channel surfing - they can be challenging to stop. As safety manager for our hospital, I can now recognize how tough it is to stop the habit of using your mouth as a third hand.

Back in the Paleozoic era when I did nothing but horse work, if someone had taped my mouth shut I would have been hard pressed to give a vaccine or administer sedation or collect blood. Full disclosure here; yes, I was guilty of using my teeth to remove the cap from a needle. I’m quite certain somewhere in vet school we were taught this was risky behavior and generally bad form. But along the way we each figure out how to get things done when there is only one of you (instead of a group of five vet students ready to hand over the necessary instruments). Inevitably, we use the other ‘opposable’ part of our bodies; our teeth.

In my current life, I wear a virtual giant orange safety hat in addition to my surgery cap. I develop heartburn every time I read about one of our employees sustaining an injury or when we have a near miss. I read safety newsletters detailing misadventures of other employees in various professions I am saddened by the many, many injuries and illnesses that are the result of poor judgment. We cannot stop treating Chihuahuas simply because they are Enemy Number One when it comes to dog-bites-human events in vet hospitals (well, ok, they are in the top five breeds). However, we CAN make other choices that directly impact our safety. One choice is to NEVER use your mouth to hold a syringe. I have seen people actually try to RE-CAP an exposed needle attached to a syringe with the cap held firmly between their teeth! We have made some progress in this hospital. Now, at the very least, employees know not to do that when I’m around. But seriously, I would like them to never do it. Aside from the obvious potential for a puncture wound somewhere in your face, there is also the added interest of where was that needle before it was jabbed in my cheek AND what is potentially within that needle? Feel like a little hit of dexmedetomidine in your chin? How about a sample of that liver FNA?

Please, do yourself a favor and choose not to hold a syringe in your mouth.