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Underreporting of Bloodborne Pathogen Exposures in Nursing Students

Black Thomas, Lisa M., PhD, RN, CNE, FAAN

doi: 10.1097/NNE.0000000000000696
Nurse Educator: PDF Only

Background Although nursing students perform many of the same procedures as licensed nurses, students are less skillful when handling sharps and are at higher risk of injury. Low rates of bloodborne pathogen (BBP) exposure reporting are described among students in all health care disciplines.

Purpose This study describes reporting behaviors of undergraduate nursing students who experienced a needlestick injury during a clinical practicum experience.

Methods This study implemented a retrospective survey design to query the BBP exposure experience of nursing students in prelicensure nursing programs.

Results Of the 4140 survey responses, 6.6% (n = 274) of respondents sustained a percutaneous BBP exposure during a clinical practicum experience, and 52% (n = 127) of these exposures were not reported. Reasons for nonreporting included fear the student would “get in trouble,” that the incident would affect the student's clinical grade, and concern about being perceived as lacking clinical skill.

Conclusions Bridging communication gaps between students and faculty is essential to ensure that students report BBP exposures to permit access to timely triage and exposure management.

Author Affiliation: Associate Professor, University of Nevada, Reno Orvis School of Nursing.

This study was funded by the Orvis School of Nursing Smernoff Foundation.

The author declares no conflicts of interest.

Correspondence: Dr Thomas, 1664 N Virginia St, M/S 0134, Reno, NV 89557 (

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Accepted for publication: March 25, 2019

Published ahead of print: May 24, 2019

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