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IV Catheter Risks to Nurses Frequent, Unreported

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media, March 13, 2012

Over the past decade, needlestick safety has become de rigueur, but according to a new study, nurses are often exposed to blood in their mucus membranes in another way: by inserting a peripheral IV catheter. In addition, most nurses aren't reporting such incidents when they occur.

The study, by the International Healthcare Worker Safety Center at the University of Virginia, finds that half of nurses experience blood exposure on their skin or in their eyes, nose, or mouth at least once a month when inserting a peripheral IV catheter.

Despite the prevalence of such exposure, most of these incidents go unreported. In fact, 69% of the mucus membrane exposures in the study weren't reported. Most nurses—nearly nine in 10—who didn't report the incident said they didn't think the exposure was significant enough to report.

More than a third said they were too busy to report them, and 9% said they were worried about what other people would think.

Janine Jagger, Ph.D., MPH, lead author of the study and director of the International Healthcare Workers Safety Center at UVA, says she was surprised by not only the frequency of blood exposure during both insertion and removal of IV catheters, but that the risk of exposure was about equal during both insertion and removal.

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