When performing any invasive procedure, such as collecting blood samples, the practitioner incurs a potential risk of exposure to viruses and infections. Clinicians need to remain ever-vigilant to the chance of contracting HIV through a needlestick injury even though the possibility is extremely unlikely. So, in celebration of AIDS Vaccine Day, we’ve provided you and your staff a reminder to review the proper practices for sterile procedures which support low risk of exposure in any circumstances of patient sample collection.
Strikethrough Reporting and Prevention
The Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) provides a variety of clinical resources, and has a page of information about Sterile Technique. Their definition of strikethrough is “the passage of liquid that could contain microorganisms through a barrier product, like a surgical gown or drape, including its seams and points of attachment.” Surgical gowns and drapes are regulated by the federal government, considered to be Class II Medical Devices. Any failure of these devices resulting in a strikethrough must be reported under federal law.
If you are ever exposed to a strikethrough of blood or other bodily fluids, the first course of action is to thoroughly wash the hands and skin with soap and water. If you have come into direct contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials it is imperative to flush mucous membranes, such as in the eyes, ears, lips, and inside the mouth. Immediately replace all medical clothing as well as personal protection equipment (PPE), and report the incident to your health care organization.
As a reminder, standard preventative measures for invasive procedures include double gloving to provide a continuous barrier in the event of a breached layer, reducing the risk of cutaneous exposure. It is also highly recommended to change gloves after each procedure, after touching optic eye pieces or operative microscopes, or whenever you suspect that contamination has occurred. In general, gloves should be changed every 90-150 minutes. Any sterile environment related to a procedure should be under constant monitoring to reduce the environmental risk of infection.
Improving Our Understanding of HIV/AIDS Through EHRs
One of the primary goals in the use of Electronic Health Records (EHR) is to improve quality, safety and efficiency of medical care. EHRs have been the subject of a study by National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) as a potentially powerful tool in the fight against AIDS, due to the vast amount of data EHRs collect, such as demographics, medical history, allergies, and other vital statistics. Interoperability among healthcare systems is key to driving the type of collaboration and information sharing that’s necessary among federal, state, and local organizations to make progress in HIV/AIDS prevention, and perhaps one day, the development of a vaccine.
Given that there is no AIDS vaccine today, it is extremely important to follow sterile procedures when providing healthcare to infected patients. Make sure to take preventative actions like changing gloves frequently, replacing surgical masks if they become wet or soiled, and wearing double gloves during invasive procedures. In the case of a strikethrough, report the incident immediately to your health care organization.