HCWs with a Potential Exposure to a Blood Borne Pathogen

If you’ve had an unprotected exposure to blood and/or body fluids in the workplace, after seeking first aid, review the policy and appendices. 

Answers to frequently asked questions are also listed below.

Obtain first aid.  Report the incident to your leader and complete an incident report.  Determine if the source patient (if known) consents to testing and arrange for testing.  Seek post-exposure counselling and baseline testing for yourself. Refer to Appendix A: HCW Blood-Borne Pathogens Exposure Algorithm (see link above)

After an exposure, the worker is sent for “baseline testing” for Hepatitis B (if no documentation of immunity on file in Occupational Health), Hepatitis C, and HIV.  The test results will not provide any information about the current exposure, but will show whether the worker was positive/negative at the time of the exposure, which is important to know for future post-exposure testing.  For this reason, it is reasonable to delay your bloodwork to the next business day if you are unable to obtain the same day (such as after hours). 

The “source patient” is the patient whose blood/body fluids the worker was exposed to.  Sometimes, the source patient is known (for example, in a surgical procedure).  Other times, the source patient is not known (for example, a needle found in the garbage).  If the source patient is known, complete Appendix B and obtain orders and a sample for testing if they consent.

Occupational Health.  In addition to providing post-exposure counselling and ordering bloodwork, Occupational Health can also provide first aid, and update your tetanus and / or Hepatitis B vaccines, if indicated.  If Occupational Health is closed, and you need urgent assessment, please go to the Emergency Department or your primary care provider. 

Yes! Always notify Occupational Health since they will ensure appropriate counselling and follow up is completed, as you may need bloodwork to be completed several times over the next 6 months.

Many factors contribute to the risk of transmission of a blood borne pathogen (Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, HIV), including type of body fluid involved, type of injury, amount of blood/body fluid, and attributes of the source patient.  An Occupational Health Nurse will collect this information from you and complete a risk assessment to help you make an informed decision regarding post-exposure prophylaxis.