What happens after an exposure incident?

According to the OSHA Fact Sheet, an exposure incident is one in which blood, a known infectious material or a potentially infectious material comes into contact with a mucous membrane (eyes, nose, mouth, etc.) or punctured skin during the course of a person’s work duties. As a nurse, you are at risk of exposure incidents on a daily basis, which is why it is important that you understand the proper protocol for dealing with such an accident. The Fact Sheet explains the reporting and follow-up requirements after an exposure accident. 

Reporting an exposure incident 

If you experience an exposure event, it is vital that you report the incident to your employer ASAP, for both your own safety and the safety of your coworkers. Exposure can result in infection of hepatitis C, hepatitis B, HIV or other bloodborne pathogens. Following your report, your employer will arrange for an immediate medical assessment and put measures in place to prevent the possible spreading of bloodborne pathogens to others. Your employer can then use your report to evaluate the conditions surrounding the incident and find ways to prevent similar accidents from occurring in the future. 

Medical evaluation  

Just as important as your filing of the report is the immediate follow-up medical evaluation. Your employer must make a medical evaluation available to you at no cost and within a reasonable time and place. A licensed doctor or health care professional must either perform the evaluation or oversee it. Additionally, an accredited laboratory must conduct all lab tests at no cost to you. 

Written opinion  

Finally, your employer must acquire and provide you with a written report of the evaluating physician’s findings within 15 days of the assessment. The written report should include only the following information:  Whether the health care provider recommended the hepatitis B vaccine post-exposure, whether you consented to receive the vaccination and whether the provider informed you of his or her findings and if you acquired any health conditions as a result of the exposure event. 


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