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Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2000 Sep;21(9):564-74.

Occupational exposure to blood: search for a relation between personality and behavior.

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  • 1Cellule Régionale de Hygiène de Lorraine, CHU de Nancy, Hôpitaux de Brabois, France.



To describe the behavior of French nurses after occupational exposure to blood (OEB); to study the reasons for not reporting an OEB to the occupational medicine service or the hospital authorities, and to explore the links between personality traits and both the risk of having an OEB and the likelihood of reporting it.


A descriptive and correlational study using a cross-sectional survey for data collection.


Six nursing schools (four initial training institutes and two specialty training schools, one for surgical nurses and one for nurse anesthetists) and six hospitals in Lorraine.


942 nurses and 459 nursing students were approached, and 964 (69%) replied to the questionnaire.


The participants received an anonymous two-part questionnaire. The first part explored the knowledge of the risk and Standard Precautions and collected details of the history of OEB. Reporting of OEB to the occupational medicine service or the hospital authorities and the nature of serological monitoring after OEB also were explored. The second part was composed of the Zuckerman sensation-seeking scale, exploring four areas: disinhibition, danger- and adventure-seeking, seeking new experiences, and susceptibility to boredom.


947 nurses were vaccinated against hepatitis B, but only 528 (56%) had checked that they were effectively immunized. Only 166 respondents (17%) stated they routinely used gloves during all procedures in which they were exposed to blood. There were 505 recorded OEB during the study period (0.24 per person per year). The most frequently reported OEB were those involving hollow needles (57%). Approximately one half (48.5%) of all OEB were reported. "Good local antisepsis immediately after the accident" was the reason most often given to justify nonreporting. Only 57% of OEB victims sought to determine the serological status of the source patient for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and hepatitis B virus immediately after accident. Only 40% and 31% of OEB victims checked their own HIV and HCV serostatus 3 and 6 months after OEB, respectively. Few staff adopted safer-sex measures after OEB, and some continued to donate blood in subsequent months. Logistic regression identified two variables significantly and independently linked to the risk of having at least one OEB in the 27 months preceding the date on which the questionnaire was completed: having a permanent position and having a higher degree of disinhibition. Taking into account the number of OEB during this period (Poisson regression), four variables were significantly and independently linked to the risk of having a larger number of OEB: having a permanent position; having a higher degree of disinhibition; being more susceptible to boredom; and having less nursing experience. In logistic regression, three variables emerged as being significantly and independently linked to reporting all OEB: younger age; having had at least one percutaneous injury (excluding splashes); and having lower susceptibility to boredom.


Nursing personnel continue to ignore or be unaware of many factors surrounding OEB, meaning that information and counseling must continue unabated. Knowledge of the risk, of the benefit of respecting Standard Precautions, and of the importance of notification and serological follow-up is still inadequate. Finally, certain personality traits, such as a high level of disinhibition and susceptibility to boredom, appear to be linked to the risk of OEB. Subjects strongly susceptible to boredom are less likely to report such accidents.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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