Nurses’ knowledge and beliefs about AIDS: comparing nurses in hospital, community and hospice settings


Mr V Melby, Lecturer Nursing University of Ulster Coleraine BT52 ISA Northern Ireland


The literature reports an ongoing debate amongst nurses regarding the risk of contracting human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) through routine nursing care An emotionally charged dilemma appears to exist for many nurses regarding what they perceive as conflict between professional obligation and personal risk This study investigates nurses’ beliefs, knowledge and perceptions of risk of contracting HIV while implementing their nursing care The study focuses on qualified nurses in the hospice, hospital and community settings No other similar comparative study that also focuses on hospice nurses has been identified This quantitative study was implemented within Northern Ireland, by way of a respondent-administered questionnaire The study's sample consisted of 45 qualified nurses and a response rate of 93% (42 respondents) was achieved Analysis of the data involved the use of descriptive and correlational statistics Overall findings indicated that many nurses, but particularly those who work in the hospital and community settings, hold negative and biased beliefs, and have inadequate knowledge and misguided perceptions regarding their risk of contracting HIV through the implementation of routine nursing care of clients Many of those nurses readily admit their lack of knowledge On the whole, hospice nurses appear more knowledgeable and exhibit a more positive approach to AIDS clients, and appear less fearful than do nurses in the other two settings Implications for hospital management, for nurse education, for nurses themselves and for clients are discussed This study should be seen as a springboard for future research within Northern Ireland