Evaluation of Home Health Care Nurses' Practice and Their Employers' Policies Related to Bloodborne Pathogens

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Abstract

RESEARCH ABSTRACT

The purpose of this descriptive study was to assess home health care nurses' exposure to bloodborne pathogens, evaluate Medicare Certified Home Healthcare Agency (MCHHA) and hospice organization practices related to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Bloodborne Pathogens Standard and the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act, and link the two to recommend safety improvements. This study evaluated the experiences of 355 home health care nurses and 30 MCHHA and hospice employers in one mid-Atlantic state regarding bloodborne pathogen programs and practices and blood and sharps contact. An index was developed to evaluate employer compliance with OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard. Employer policies and nurse practice related to the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Standard did not meet all requirements despite identified risk. Thirty-eight home health care nurses from 12 of the 30 employers reported needlestick injuries within the past year, yet employers reported only 18 nurse needlestick injuries within the same year. Using the bloodborne pathogen compliance index, employers can review and revise their exposure control plans to ensure compliance. This intervention should benefit both employer policies and nurse practice to improve safety and decrease the risks from bloodborne pathogens in the home health care setting.

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