Take That Syringe Out of Your Mouth!

Posted: Aug 28, 2012
Views: 8742 - Comments: 15

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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. 



Morgan VanFleet's picture

While I am still an occasional offender (although I don't think I've ever trusted my proprioception enough to recap a needle with my mouth), I have to say the single handed uncapping/recapping technique can be learned just like one learns how to throw a suture. Practice, practice, practice, and it will become a more natural motion than placing the cap in your mouth.

Sarah Crisp's picture

Well said Morgan. But I'm pretty sure putting needles in your mouth is a learned motion, not a natural one. Think about it... haha

Rebecca Griebel's picture

I recapped once (not at Dove) and promptly stabbed my lip. Lesson learned.

Christine Rincon's picture

Guiltyyyyyyyy! I'm literally going to have to tape my mouth shut to get out of this one.

Jordan  Siebert's picture

Oh fellow techs, I learned this one the hard way. I once tried to recap a syringe full of Fentanyl with an 18g needle with my mouth. In the half second it took to get the needle from the rubber stopper to my mouth, I realized the cap was actually in my hand. On a side note: when you gasp, your mouth opens wide, and your tounge goes to the roof of your mouth. The 18g needle nicked my sub lingual and I could taste the blood pouring into my mouth. Before you judge, not that vet techs would ever judge a fellow tech, let me clarify. I am a CVT, have been doing this for almost 12 years now, passed my VTNE with a 94 %, and consider myself pretty intelligent. Learn from this story of horror. Use your hands. Not your mouth. If not for your own health, then for the mental health and well-being of your saftey officer.

Amanda Kern 's picture

It is SO HARD to not draw blood without putting that syringe in my mouth! as hard as i try NOT to, it happens almost daily.. still trying! those butterfly sets require three hands!

Ana Garcia's picture

I am getting more confident with handling needles while I am in school but I hope I never get so comfortable that I start to use my teeth to uncap or recap needles!

Ash21125@students.broadviewuniversity.edu's picture

Coworkers of mine often use there teeth to uncap a syringe. I have not seen any accidents with it... yet! It wouldnt feel too good to have a syringe of lydocaine in your lip!

Ashley Edlefsen's picture

I often do the method of pulling the cap off but never recapping it. I always drop the cap to the floor to prevent the thought of me EVER recapping. I cannot seem to break the habit especially since I am no the only one

cheri stanford's picture

me personally have not used any of the needles yet for vaccines or blood draws but when we do start doing them i will not be putting the needle in my mouth for no reason sounds way to risky for me and dangerous

Aryanna Goalen's picture

I feel like I am going to truly struggle with this. I am not currently at that point that I am using my mouth for anything other than holding my own pen, but when my hands are full or I am alone, or whatever comes my way, I will try to remember the risks of using my mouth, and fingers crossed, I do not do it. If I step back and really think about it, why on earth would you do that?! Like you know where that needle has been, and what was in the syringe! But when you really need to, the mouth is where a lot of us go! So I really hope I do not start doing this myself.

David Isom's picture

Bad habits are so hard to replace.. simple .. just dont start. Dave

Hayden Valentine's picture

I have strong aversion to needles, so there's no way I'd put one in my mouth! It's an excellent practice for other equipment, as well!

Madeyne McCarthy's picture

I use my mouth for many things. but, knowing that you use your moth for a needle can be challenging. I see when I am doing something stressful and i judt out it in my moth it will be easier. I am now knowing taht having a syringe in the mouth can be very dangerous. I will now know that it will be a situation I will not put on myself and others.