Nurses at risk: Most don't comply with standard precautions for blood-borne pathogens

A new study raises troubling concerns that ambulatory care nurses fail to comply with standard precautions intended to protect them from blood-borne pathogens.

Standard precautions are the minimum infection control practices that nurses must follow when caring for patients, whether or not they appear to be infectious. The protocols protect healthcare workers from diseases that can be spread by contact with blood, body fluids, non-intact skin and mucous membranes. 

The research, published in the January issue of the American Journal of Infection Control, found that only 17.4 percent of 116 ambulatory care nurses participating in the study said they comply with all nine standard precautions for preventing infection.

Most nurses surveyed (92 percent) always wear gloves, but only 63 percent said they always wash their hands after removing gloves, and only 82 percent said they always wash their hands after caring for patients.

Compliance was highest with always wearing gloves, at 92 percent. But only 63 percent said they always wash their hands after removing gloves, and only 82 percent said they always wash their hands after caring for patients.

Since the results are self-reported, they're likely to exaggerate actual compliance, the researchers warned. They also noted that compliance was highest among cardiology, medicine and dialysis practices.

The researchers recommended that organizations make efforts to strictly enforce policies for compliance so officials can address problem areas with better monitoring and education.

In another sign of lax compliance, about two-thirds of federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration citations in physician practices are related to compliance with the blood-borne pathogens standard, FiercePracticeManagement has reported.

Failure to follow the infection-control standards puts not only nurses patients at risk as well.  Authorities in Utah are still trying to track down more than 7,000 patients who had contact with a former nurse infected with hepatitis C; several have tested positive, FierceHealthcare reported.

To learn more:
- read the study

 

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