Bloodborne Pathogens: Safety & Standard Precautions

Instructor: Ian Lord

Ian has an MBA and is a real estate investor, former health professions educator, and Air Force veteran.

In a hospital setting, there is always a risk of healthcare workers becoming exposed to bloodborne pathogens from patient bodily fluids. Let's review some of the standard precautions used to increase safety in healthcare.

Bloodborne Pathogen Safety

As an emergency room nurse, Jane is constantly aware that her patients often have illnesses that could be passed on to herself or others. A trauma patient may have a bloodborne disease that isn't immediately obvious, for example. For this reason, healthcare practitioners use standard precautions to reinforce provider and patient safety. In this lesson, we will look at some of the measures Jane takes to protect herself, her colleagues, and her patients from bloodborne pathogens.

A bloodborne pathogen is a disease causing infection that remains for a long period of time in the bloodstream. Examples of bloodborne pathogens include hepatitis B and C and the AIDS causing virus HIV. These diseases can be passed onto another person if the infected person's blood, semen, vaginal fluid, or spinal fluid comes into contact with another person's bloodstream.

Jane has seen patients vomit and bleed onto healthcare workers. In other cases, healthcare workers have been accidentally cut or punctured with needles or scalpel blades that have come in contact with a patient's blood. Standard precautions offer safety guidance and resources to prevent the spread of infection.

Standard Precautions

The measures that Jane and other healthcare professionals use to avoid coming into contact with a patient's blood or other body fluids are known as standard precautions. Standard precautions against bloodborne pathogens include:

  • Personal protective equipment,
  • Needle safety guidance
  • Proper cleaning procedures

If Jane adheres to these standard precautions, she significantly reduces the chances of her, a coworker, or a patient becoming exposed to bloodborne pathogens.

Personal Protective Equipment

Personal protective equipment (PPE) includes masks, gloves, gowns, and goggles or face shields. Jane uses these to create a barrier between patient bodily fluids and her skin and the mucous membranes of her mouth, nose and eyes. It's important for Jane to make sure she uses properly sized equipment to prevent any snags or tears and ensure her own comfort. When taking equipment off Jane makes sure to avoid coming into contact with any potentially contaminated biological material before disposing it into a designated hazardous waste bin. PPE use will prevent many instances of exposure, but the possibility of user error or device failures means that it cannot always guarantee Jane will never be exposed to a bloodborne pathogen.

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