Health care/social assistance Workplace exposures

Few nurses follow all precautions for infection prevention: study

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nurse with gloves

Photo: Steve Debenport/iStockphoto

New York – Fewer than 1 in 5 nurses adhere to all nine standard precautions for preventing infection, potentially exposing them to bloodborne pathogens, according to a study from Northwell Health system.

The study involved 116 outpatient care nurses who were asked about compliance with the standards and their understanding of the hepatitis C virus. The nine standards are:

  1. Provide care regarding all patients as possibly contagious.
  2. Wash hands after removing gloves.
  3. Do not put foreign objects on hands.
  4. Wear gloves when it is expected hands could be exposed to bodily fluids.
  5. Do not recap needles.
  6. Do not dismantle a used needle from a syringe.
  7. Wear a facemask when exposure to air-transmitted pathogens is expected.
  8. Wash hands after providing care.
  9. Throw away used sharp materials into sharps containers.

The nurses most often complied with always wearing gloves (92 percent), and 70 percent said they always wear a facemask. More than half of participants (63 percent) said they always wash their hands after removing gloves, and 82 percent said they always wash their hands after providing care.

In regard to hepatitis C, 26 percent of the nurses incorrectly believed the virus is spread through sexual contact, 14 percent erroneously believed the virus causes early death, 12 percent were unaware virus antibodies can be present despite no infection, and 11 percent did not know multiple virus genotypes exist.

Study authors said that because the data was self-reported, participants may have overstated their actual compliance. “Overall, the ambulatory care nurses chose to implement some behaviors and not others, and this behavior puts them at risk for acquiring a bloodborne infection,” they wrote.

The study was published in the January issue of the American Journal of Infection Control.

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