Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Public Health

Major Professor

Hamisu M. Salihu, M.D., Ph.D.

Committee Member

Thomas Truncale, D.O., M.P.H.

Committee Member

Eve N. Hanna, M.D., M.S.P.H.


Needlestick injuries, Bloodborne pathogens, Occupational health, Medical education, Healthcare providers


Because of their relative inexperience in performing procedures and handling sharps devices, medical students and resident physicians are considered to be at high risk for sharps injuries. A higher rate of sharps injuries for medical trainees implies a higher risk for occupationally-acquired infection with bloodborne pathogens and may have financial and legal implications for training institutions. This study examines the prevalence of sharps injuries among US medical students and resident physicians. A systematic review of the literature yielded 10 studies that gave data on sharps injuries for US medical students or residents, and those data were combined with data from our institution to produce pooled prevalences. Results from our institution showed that residents had a significantly higher risk of sharps injuries than medical students. While sharps injuries increased with students' years of training, residents' rates decreased with increasing level of training. Resident rates were highest in the department of Surgery and lowest for Pediatrics. Comparing pooled prevalences of US trainees revealed that residents were 6 times more likely than medical students to have a sharps injury. This information can be used by training programs to inform changes in residency training curricula and infection control policies, as well as to forecast Worker's Compensation and long-term disability insurance coverage requirements. Medical training institutions must continue to provide opportunities for students and residents to perfect their procedural skills, but at the same time, trainees must be protected from the risk of sharps injuries and exposure to bloodborne pathogens.