Nurses failure to appreciate the risks of infection due to needle stick accidents: a hospital based survey

C. Leliopoulou, H. Waterman, S. Chakrabarty

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One of the most important occupational risks to healthcare workers is exposure is to blood-borne viruses. This study examined nurses’ perceptions of risk of contracting infection following single or multiple exposure to blood or body fluids. Two hundred and ninety nurses were surveyed using a questionnaire. One hundred and thirty-three responded; 85 worked in higher risk areas (ITU, Haematology, Haemodialysis and Neonatal Surgical Units) (Group A) and 48 worked in lower risk areas (medical wards, an orthopaedic and an ENT ward) (Group B). Forty-nine percent of subjects from group A and 60% of subjects from Group B believed that a needle stick injury with a needle contaminated with infected blood was an unlikely source of infection. Fifteen percent from group A and 20% from group B thought that infection with a blood-borne virus following a needle stick injury contaminated with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infected blood was very unlikely. Twelve percent from group A and 10% from Group B did not know whether resheathing needles between use can provide protection against HIV. Sixty-seven percent from group A and 71% from group B disagreed with the statement that nurses are at higher risk of exposure to HIV/HBV than the other healthcare workers. Thirteen percent from group A and 5% from group B agreed with the statement, whereas 8% from group A and 5% from group B thought that nurses are at less risk. Only 22% from group A and 23% from group B would take more precautions if they knew that the patient had HIV/HBV infection, whilst 11% and 8% respectively admitted that they would take special precautions only when the patient has clinical symptoms of HIV/HBV infection. The findings suggest that these nurses would benefit from further education regarding infection from blood-borne viruses.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-59
JournalJournal of Hospital Infection
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - May 1999

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