Background: It has been estimated that more than 8 million health care workers (HCWs) in the United States may be exposed to blood and body fluids via sharp and mucocutaneous exposures.
Methods: An anonymous questionnaire was distributed among 505 HCWs. The target sample population included all the medical students; nursing professionals; dental professionals; and residents in internal medicine, emergency medicine, surgery, and obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Illinois Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois, a metropolitan tertiary care and referral center for Northern Illinois and Northwest Indiana. The sample was limited by the number of HCWs who were available to take the survey. The number and the characteristics of occupational exposures and reporting practices were recorded and compiled. Subsequently, a review of the English literature was performed using PubMed to analyze reasons for underreporting. Secondary and tertiary articles were located based on findings from the initial searches.
Results: One hundred three of 455 (22.6%) HCWs reported a sharps exposure during their career, including their student years; thirty-four (33.0%) of these were not reported. One hundred five of 455 (23.1%) HCWs reported a mucocutaneous exposure during their career; 87 (82.9%) of these were not reported. The most common year of exposure was the intern year. The most common reason for not reporting was the belief that the exposure was not significant, followed by the combination of believing the exposure was not significant and being too busy.
Conclusion: Underreporting of blood and body fluid exposures is common because of a belief that most exposures are not significant. More education of HCWs is needed to change this perspective.
Published by Mosby, Inc.