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A devastating injury failed to derail Karen Daley’s remarkable career

By | August 2nd, 2013 | Blog | Add A Comment

 

Karen Daley: “Everyone’s health and safety is at risk with these injuries. It really is about what’s right across the board for a safer work environment.”

 

One in a series of profiles of Modern Healthcare’s Top 25 Women in Healthcare (sponsored by Furst Group)

 

Karen Daley loved being a nurse, and she was a good one. But all that changed one day in 1998 when she was stuck by a needle while treating a patient. From that one needle stick, she contracted HIV and hepatitis C.

 

Her clinical nursing days were over. Over the next couple of years, she would undergo exhausting treatment regimens. But she was determined that the incident would not end her healthcare career.

 

“I learned how resilient I was physically and emotionally,” says Daley today, now president of the American Nurses Association and one of the 2013 Top 25 Women in Healthcare as chosen by Modern Healthcare. “It was a grueling time. I was constantly worried about fatigue, falling and exposing others to my blood, and I had little appetite because of the drugs. I looked sick.”

 

Yet while she underwent treatment, she plunged into advocacy, petitioning the U.S. Congress to change laws to reduce the odds that other nurses would have to face what she was going through. The laws were eventually changed to mandate use of safety-engineered sharps devices that could prevent similar injuries. Now, more than a decade later, compliance isn’t where it could or should be.

 

“We had to educate the healthcare system that these injuries and associated bloodborne pathogen exposures were preventable,” Daley explains. “Not only were they losing workers to these injuries, they were risking the goodwill of workers who learned over time that these were injuries that should not have occurred.”

 

In hospitals, she says, “prevention often is not seen as a viable strategy because it often costs money on the front end versus money you may or may not have to pay on the back end.” Read more…