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Nonhospital health-care workers at substantial risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens
Date:12/20/2007

December 20, 2007 In one of the largest studies of its kind, researchers from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health assessed the risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens among non-hospital based registered nurses (RNs), and found that nearly one out of 10 of the more than 1100 nurse participants reported at least one needlestick injury in the previous 12 months. Findings of the study are published in the December issue of Industrial Health.

According to Robyn Gershon, DrPH, principal investigator and professor of Sociomedical Sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health, These rates of exposure are surprising since they are similar to rates reported for hospital-based nurses, even though hospitalized patients generally have high levels of acuity of patient care (i.e., more procedures, including more invasive procedures), than are typically performed in community healthcare settings. But, as Dr. Gershon and colleagues point out, these findings are not completely unexpected since patient care, including more complex types of care, is increasingly delivered at non-hospital based healthcare facilities, including out-patient clinics, nursing homes, doctors offices, patients homes, and public health clinics.

The authors note that increasingly complex procedures, many of which involve needles and other sharp instruments, are being performed, primarily by well-trained registered nurses, in these non-hospital settings, thereby increasing the potential risk of exposure. The population at risk is large, since non-hospital based nurses represent a substantial portion of the overall nursing workforce; approximately 40% of the 2.3 million RNs in the U. S. are employed in non-hospital settings. Extrapolated to the entire non-hospital based RN workforce in the United States, the authors estimate that the annual number of needlesticks in the non-hospital RN workforce may be in excess of 145,000 per year.

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Contact: Stephanie Berger
sb2247@columbia.edu
212-305-4372
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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