In Recognition of Patient Safety Awareness Week, State's Top Health Official Warns Healthcare Providers of the Dangers of Unsafe Injection Practices

Department of Health Launches Injection Safety Web Page for Patients and Providers

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 4, 2013) - In keeping with National Patient Safety Awareness Week, March 3-9, 2013, New York State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H., encouraged New York State healthcare providers to ensure that they are following correct infection control procedures when administering injections to patients. Recent incidents of providers failing to follow the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) "2007 Standard Precautions" illustrate the need for diligence in preparing and administering injections safely.

"As health professionals, our job is to heal, not to harm; these infections are completely preventable," Commissioner Shah said. "It is imperative that those in the healthcare field redouble their efforts to ensure injected medications are administered safely."

Patients also have a right to insist on nothing less than "One Needle, One Syringe, Only One Time," which is the slogan of the national One & Only Campaign. The New York State Department of Health (DOH) was at the forefront of the national effort to eliminate unsafe injections, becoming one of the first two "partner states" in the Campaign in 2009, creating the New York One & Only Campaign.

The mission of the New York One & Only Campaign is to re-educate healthcare providers on safe injection practices and to empower patients to ask questions about measures being taken to ensure their safety before receiving an injection. Commissioner Shah encourages patients to talk to their healthcare provider and ask questions, such as, "What steps does your practice take to help ensure I'll receive a safe injection each and every time?"

The One & Only Campaign is directed by the Safe Injection Practices Coalition (SIPC), a group of healthcare-related organizations including the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The SIPC indicated that since 2001, more than 150,000 patients in the U.S. have been told they may have been exposed to hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), because providers followed unsafe injection procedures. In addition, the CDC has documented transmission of potentially life-threatening bacterial infection when healthcare providers removed medication from single-dose vials, which typically lack preservatives, more than once for multiple patient injections. Please see:

Common incorrect injection procedures include the reuse of syringes (even if a new needle is used, the risk of contamination still exists), use of single-dose vials for more than one patient, and inadvertent contamination of multi-dose vials by reentering the vial with the same syringe used to inject medication into a patient. Some healthcare providers feel they are saving money and scarce resources by reusing devices; others have not been properly trained in infection control procedures or have become lax in following proper procedure.

"Regardless of the reason for these lapses in safe injection practices, there is simply no excuse for cutting corners when patient safety hangs in the balance," Commissioner Shah said. "Both patients and providers must insist on nothing less than 'One Needle, One Syringe, Only One Time,' for each and every injection given in the healthcare setting."

It is important that healthcare providers who give injections follow these safety guidelines:

  • Never administer medications from the same syringe to more than one patient, even if the needle is changed.
  • After a syringe or needle has been used to enter or connect to a patient's IV it is contaminated and should not be used on another patient or to enter a medication vial.
  • Never enter a medication vial with a used syringe or needle.
  • Never use medication packaged as a single-dose vial for more than one patient.
  • Assign medications packaged as multi-dose vials for use by a single patient only whenever possible.
  • Do not use bags or bottles of intravenous solution as a common source of supply for more than one patient, unless individual doses are prepared in a pharmacy.
  • Wear a surgical mask when placing a catheter or injecting material into the spinal canal or epidural space.
  • Insulin pens are single-use devices used for only one person.
  • Whenever possible, dedicate point-of-care blood testing meters (glucometers) for one patient only. If not possible, make sure they are cleaned and disinfected after every use, between each patient, as described by the manufacturer. If the manufacturer does not specify a cleaning and disinfection procedure, then the meter should not be shared.
  • Never use re-usable fingerstick devices for more than one person, even with a new lancet, even if they are labeled for use on multiple patients, and even if they are cleaned and disinfected between patients according to the manufacturer's recommendations.

For the latest information and resources on injection safety, visit the DOH website at: