Concern, caution, and care: HIV risk perception among hospital nurses

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Nurses routinely confront uncertainties surrounding the risk of occupationally transmitted HIV, particularly in the context of hospital AIDS care. Nurses respond to their perception of this HIV risk with a mixture of concern, caution, and care. This study empirically examines HIV risk perception based on a survey of hospital nurses in U.S. cities with high HIV seroprevalence rates. There is variation in the degree to which hospital nurses worry about HIV at work, despite widespread use of universal precautions. Occupational HIV risk perception is associated with knowledge of workplace transmission vectors, comfort with AIDS patients, AIDS care experience, and working conditions. Results show that nurses on AIDS care units are more habituated to HIV risk, whereas those with less AIDS care knowledge, tolerance, and experience are more concerned about HIV Consequently, nurses who worry less about being infected with HIV are more willing to perform AIDS care, predict plans to continue AIDS care in the future and report more equal treatment of people with AIDS. Supportive workplaces which reduce stress and emotional exhaustion, together with enhanced and improved training for hospital nurses, may temper provider concerns and improve the continuity and quality of care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)253-279
Number of pages27
JournalSociological Inquiry
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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