Purpose: To examine the relationship between nurses' knowledge of blood-borne pathogens (BBPs), their professional behavior regarding handwashing, compliance with standard precautions (SPs), and avoidance of therapeutic contact with BBP-infected patients.
Design: This cross-sectional design study took place in a regional medical center in Central Israel during 2003.
Methods: Of the 180 participants, 159 (88.3%) were women with an average educational level of 16.40 years (SD=2.66). The mean age of the sample was 39.41 (SD=10.1). Data were collected using a structured questionnaire including sociodemographic information, level of knowledge concerning three BBPs (human immunodeficiency virus [HIV], hepatitis B virus [HBV], and hepatitis C virus [HCV]), level of compliance with SPs, understanding of SP principles, and avoidance of therapeutic contact with BBP-infected patients.
Findings: Levels of HIV-related knowledge were significantly higher than were those of HBV- and HCV-related knowledge. Only 96 participants (54.5%) stated that all patients should be treated as BBP-carriers. The understanding of the basic principle of SPs did not influence the relationship between perceived knowledge and self-reported compliance with SPs; 77.3% of the sample reported that they avoid therapeutic contact with BBP-infected patients. The level of perceived knowledge did not contribute to the nurses' avoidance of care of BBP carriers.
Conclusions: Perceived knowledge of BBPs has a weak effect on compliance with SPs and willingness to care for BBP-infected patients.
Recommendations: Nurses must identify their preconceptions when caring for BBP-carriers. Further research on this issue is needed to attempt to understand the forces acting on our nursing staff, in order to ensure appropriate care of BBP-infected patients.
Clinical Relevance: Our study indicated some reluctance among nurses to care for patients with blood-borne pathogens. This appears to be the result of value systems and not a lack of knowledge, indicating a need to integrate a psychoeducational approach to education of nurses.