An anonymous national survey of a representative population of healthcare workers who were thought likely to have frequent and intensive exposures to blood and other body fluids (certified nurse-midwives [CNMs]), was conducted to assess the type and frequency of self-reported occupational exposures to blood and body fluids experienced, the extent to which barrier precautions and other infection control measures were used, whether or not reported use of barriers was associated with a lower perceived rate of exposures and factors that influenced the use of infection control procedures.
Of those responding, 74% had soiled their hands with blood at least one time in the preceding six months, 51% had splashed blood or amniotic fluid in their faces and 24% reported one or more needlestick injuries during that same period. Our study also found evidence of an association between the practice of needle recapping and the occurrence of needlestick injury (p = .003). Despite a high level of training and knowledge, only 55% reported routinely practicing universal precautions (UPs).
Several factors that potentially influenced the use of UPS were studied, including healthcare worker perceptions of risk of occupational bloodborne infection, knowledge of routes of transmission of bloodborne pathogens and rationale for not using appropriate barriers. Our data suggest that occupational exposures occur frequently and that healthcare workers' (HCWs') perceptions of risk for occupational infection play an important role in influencing use of UPS. This study emphasizes the importance of developing new strategies for UP training.