December 7, 2023

Study examines infection precautions during pandemic based on healthcare roles

Editor's Note

A first-of-its-kind study examined a range of different professional healthcare roles during the pandemic and how they complied with precaution guidelines around infection prevention. The study, published in the American Journal of Infection Control on December 6, found statistically significant differences between job roles. 

The researchers conducted a survey of 191 healthcare personnel at the University of North Carolina Medical Center between July 2020 and January 2021, who were asked to report their experiences in SARS-CoV-2 exposure and adherence or non-adherence to infection prevention protocols. Respondents were grouped into one of three categories: 

  • physicians, advanced practice providers, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners (45%)
  • RNs (27%)
  • “other,” which included therapists, dietitians, and other staff (28%). 

Among the findings:

  • There were significant differences in potential risk of exposure and of making errors in infection prevention measures. 
  • 57.4% of RNs were engaged in jobs that placed them at a higher risk of SARS-CoV-2 exposure, compared to nearly 29% of physicians and 38% of the "other" category.
  • Those healthcare personnel at greatest risk of exposure were also 5.74 times more likely to report at least one error in infection prevention measures in the previous 2 weeks. 
  • These errors included failure to don protective gear and incorrect hand hygiene. 

The researchers say the findings highlight opportunities to better prepare personnel in infection prevention and improve the safety of healthcare delivery.

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