News & Events

Is a bloodborne pathogen exposure treated as an emergency?

From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
April/May 2012 Edition

By Sonja M. Rivera

The MNA’s Division of Health & Safety has long been addressing issues surrounding bloodborne pathogen exposures in nursing. Last summer the division created a survey that asked nurses about their exposures to bloodborne pathogens. Over a period of six months, the survey collected 356 responses and yielded some surprising results. The results revealed the reported frequency of 1) bloodborne pathogen exposures in nursing; 2) how nurses define a bloodborne pathogen exposure; 3) how often nurses formally report exposures; and 4) whether there are obstacles in the way of seeking treatment after an exposure.

With regard to obstacles, the MNA specifically wanted to learn if obtaining a “source patient signature for an HIV informed consent form” was an issue for exposed nurses. It was found that bloodborne pathogen exposures are still an issue in nursing and that they are not always treated as an emergency. More than one-third of nurses in the sample experienced a bloodborne pathogen exposure over the past 10 years, and more than one-third of that same group did not formally report the exposure. In addition, nurses encountered numerous obstacles when it came to formally reporting their exposures and obtaining a source patient signature for an HIV informed consent form.

The complete report of the survey results is on the MNA Web site under the Health & Safety section. Read the full report in PDF format here.

Sonia Rivera is an intern at MNA who is scheduled to receive an MPH degree this year from Tufts University School of Medicine.