Universal Precautions Compliance and Exposure Frequency to Patient Body Fluids in Nurses Employed By Urban and Rural Health Care Agencies

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 1-1-1995


Previous studies have suggested that health care workers may differ with respect to universal precautions knowledge, compliance, practice setting barriers, or exposure to patient body fluids in rural and urban areas. The purpose of this study was to determine whether or not there are rural/urban differences in the degree of precaution taken by health care workers to prevent the spread of blood borne pathogens, specifically human immunodefiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis B virus (HBV). A random sample of rural and urban registered and licensed practical nurses in Tennessee was surveyed. The respondents completed two instruments that assessed self‐reported universal precautions knowledge, precautions, and practice barriers.

No measurable differences in universal precautions knowledge, compliance, or barrier scores between the two groups were found; yet rural nurses were 2.7 times as likely to be exposed to patient body fluids than urban nurses (P<0.005). The conclusion was that rural nurses were as experienced and as knowledgeable about universal precaution techniques as their urban peers, but their knowledge was not translated into practice to the same degree. Two possible explanations offered are (1) rural nurses are more likely to be acquainted with, and thus trusting of, their patients, and (2) the lower seroprevalence of human immunodefiency virus and hepatitis B virus in rural areas may lead to complacency.