Objective: To assess and characterize self-reported levels of compliance with universal precautions among hospital-based health care workers and to determine correlates of compliance.
Design: Confidential questionnaire survey of 1716 hospital-based health care workers.
Participants: Participants were recruited from three geographically distinct hospitals. A stratified convenience sample of physicians, nurses, technicians, and phlebotomists working in emergency, surgery, critical care, and laboratory departments was selected from employment lists to receive the survey instrument. All participants had direct contact with either patients or patient specimens.
Results: For this study, overall compliance was defined as "always" or "often" adhering to the desired protective behavior. Eleven different items composed the overall compliance scale. Compliance rates varied among the 11 items, from extremely high for certain activities (e.g., glove use, 97%; disposal of sharps, 95%) to low for others (e.g., wearing protective outer clothing, 62%; wearing eye protection, 63%). Compliance was strongly correlated with several key factors: (1) perceived organizational commitment to safety, (2) perceived conflict of interest between workers' need to protect themselves and their need to provide medical care to patients; (3) risk-taking personality; (4) perception of risk; (5) knowledge regarding routes of HIV transmission; and (6) training in universal precautions. Compliance rates were associated with some demographic characteristics: female workers had higher overall compliance scores than did male workers (25% of female and 19% of male respondents circled "always" or "often" on each of the 11 items, p < 0.05); and overall compliance scores were highest for nurses, intermediate for technicians, and lowest for physicians. Overall compliance scores were higher for the mid-Atlantic respondents (28%) than for those from the Southwest (20%) or Midwest (20%, p = 0.001).
Conclusions: This study supports earlier findings regarding several compliance correlates (perception of risk, knowledge of universal precautions), but it also identifies important new variables, such as the organizational safety climate and perceived conflict of interest. Several modifiable variables were identified, and intervention programs that address as many of these factors as possible will probably succeed in facilitating employee compliance.