Hospital Workers at Risk for Bloodborne Disease

March 9, 2001
Despite improvements in technology and strong federal guidelines rates of exposure to bloodborne diseases are still "unacceptably high" among hospital healthcare worker, researcher report.

Despite improvements in technology and strong federal guidelines designed to prevent exposure to bloodborne diseases such as HIV, rates of exposure are still "unacceptably high" among hospital healthcare workers, researchers report.

"Prevention of these events should be a high priority for all healthcare institutions," said Dr. Bradley N. Doebbeling, of the University of Iowa College of Medicine in Iowa City, and multicenter colleagues stress.

The researchers studied programs designed to cut the spread of bloodborne diseases in 153 hospitals in Iowa and Virginia.

Nearly one third of the hospitals offered new employees training on bloodborne pathogen exposure precautions only twice a year or less often. Current US government guidelines recommend training all new employees when they start employment.

The use of devices that can reduce the risk of nurses or doctors accidentally sticking themselves with an infected needle -- such as needle-less IV systems -- was also relatively inconsistent among the sites.

And 24-hour access to treatment that can prevent the disease immediately after exposure was not universal, the authors report in the February issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

The investigators were "surprised" to find that "few physicians are receiving standard precautions training through the hospitals in which they work," said Doebbeling. "We would recommend that hospitals invest in protective devices when they appear to be safer, as many of them do ... (and) require standard precautions training for all healthcare personnel, including physicians."

In a related commentary, Dr. David K. Henderson, of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., suggested that hospitals "must invest ample resources in comprehensive programs that apply the principles of continuous improvement to the processes of care that place healthcare workers at risk for these exposures."

Henderson added, "Maintaining a safe workplace is a cornerstone of clinical quality."

by Virginia Sutcliffe

About the Author

EHS Today Staff

EHS Today's editorial staff includes:

Dave Blanchard, Editor-in-Chief: During his career Dave has led the editorial management of many of Endeavor Business Media's best-known brands, including IndustryWeekEHS Today, Material Handling & LogisticsLogistics Today, Supply Chain Technology News, and Business Finance. In addition, he serves as senior content director of the annual Safety Leadership Conference. With over 30 years of B2B media experience, Dave literally wrote the book on supply chain management, Supply Chain Management Best Practices (John Wiley & Sons, 2021), which has been translated into several languages and is currently in its third edition. He is a frequent speaker and moderator at major trade shows and conferences, and has won numerous awards for writing and editing. He is a voting member of the jury of the Logistics Hall of Fame, and is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.

Adrienne Selko, Senior Editor: In addition to her roles with EHS Today and the Safety Leadership Conference, Adrienne is also a senior editor at IndustryWeek and has written about many topics, with her current focus on workforce development strategies. She is also a senior editor at Material Handling & Logistics. Previously she was in corporate communications at a medical manufacturing company as well as a large regional bank. She is the author of Do I Have to Wear Garlic Around My Neck?, which made the Cleveland Plain Dealer's best sellers list.

Nicole Stempak, Managing Editor:  Nicole Stempak is managing editor of EHS Today and conference content manager of the Safety Leadership Conference.

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