Exposure to blood and bodily fluids is quite common in the healthcare environment and preventing the spread of bloodborne pathogens should be of utmost concern to everyone that comes in contact with patients. OSHA estimates that 5.6 million workers in the healthcare industry and related occupations are at risk of occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens, infectious microorganisms in human blood that can cause disease in humans.
A bloodborne disease is one that can be spread through contamination by blood and other body fluids.Bloodborne diseases of primary concern to healthcare workers are the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV). But other diseases that can be spread this way include syphilis and malaria.
Gain Awareness through EducationAll healthcare personnel (HCPs), including vendor representatives, should receive training on bloodborne pathogens safety and the prevention of needlesticks and sharps injuries. Although most HCPs are not in direct contact with patients, the very nature of the healthcare environment creates the possibility of exposure.
Reptrax UniversityTM, our learning management system, includes a bloodborne pathogens safety course that focuses on providing strategies and tools to help ensure safety. The program discusses the prevalence of bloodborne infections and describes how exposure controls and personal protective equipment (PPE) are used to prevent transmission. It also provides a review of universal precautions and needlestick precautions as well as guidance on following appropriate workplace infection control procedures.
As a vendor representative working in a healthcare environment, you need to know:
How to Handle with Care – In many incidents, carelessness or overfamiliarity is the cause of the spread of bloodborne disease. Often, HCPs are not handling surgical tools or syringes with the care they need, and it’s not just the healthcare professional originally handling the sharps that is at risk. Improper disposal puts others in danger. For instance, needles concealed in linen or trash can injure workers or patients who unexpectedly encounter them. While it is understandable that HCPs get comfortable with routine duties, such as taking blood or handling equipment, they need to do so in a way that puts the safety first. If they forget to recap or re-sheath a needle, there could be severe consequences.
What to Do if Exposed
If you have been exposed, take action immediately. This includes flooding the site of contamination with water and cleaning the exposed area with soap or a skin disinfectant. Report the incident, and seek immediate medical attention.
- In the case of exposure to HBV, start the hepatitis B series vaccine right away. The earlier you start it, the better chance it has to be effective. If you have already received the vaccination, get blood tests taken after exposure. HBV antibodies should be at regular levels.
- For HCV, treatment with interferon and ribavirin is most effective, especially early on, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).
- In case of possible contact with HIV, AAOS recommends taking anti-HIV medication as soon as you can. If you have the medical history of a patient, check to see what stage of the virus they are in. This can help in determining the level of treatment needed.
Practice Preventative Measures – Wear appropriate surgical garb: gowns, gloves, goggles, masks, etc. Don’t leave any portion of your body exposed. Even if you aren’t handling needlesticks, possible blood splatters or contact with bone fragments might occur. In a high-risk situation, consider doubling up on gloves. It is always a good idea to follow the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on these issues. Be sure that surgeons are familiar with CDC’s universal precautions.
Reptrax Professional and Professional Express members can take the course to fulfill the credential requirement and then retake the training as often as necessary for technique reminders and reinforcement learning.