To analyze a decade of hospital staff and student exposures to blood and body fluids (BBF) and to identify risk factors relevant to prevention strategies.
Retrospective review of a 1999–2008 data set of BBF exposures. The data, maintained by occupational health staff, detailed the type of exposure, the setting in which the exposure occurred, and the occupational group of the BBF-exposed personnel.
Washington DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VA-DC), an inner-city tertiary care hospital.
All healthcare workers and staff at the VA-DC.
Review of database.
A review of 10 years of data revealed 564 occupational exposures to BBF, of which 66% were caused by needlesticks and 20% were caused by sharp objects. Exposures occurred most often in the acute care setting (which accounted for 39% of exposures) and the operating room (which accounted for 22%). There was a mean of 4.9 exposures per 10,000 acute care patient-days, 0.5 exposures per 10,000 long-term care patient-days, and 0.35 exposures per 10,000 outpatient visits. Housestaff accounted for the highest number of all exposures (196 [35%]). There were, on average, 15.2 exposures per 100 housestaff full-time equivalents. An average of only 1 exposure per year occurred in the hemodialysis center.
Occupational exposures to BBF remain common, but rates vary widely by setting and occupational group. Overall rates are steady across a decade, despite the use of various antiexposure devices and provider education programs. Targeting occupational groups and hospital settings that have been shown to have the highest risk rates should become foundational to future preventative strategies.
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