Patient exposure


Hello everyone,

I just need some support and other nursing/medical opinion on a potential patient exposure.

I am a new grad who just started working nights as a RN on an oncology unit 3mnths ago.

Last week at work, a patient who had a continuous dose of 0.9 Normal Saline running through his peripheral IV needed help taking off of his shirt. In order to get his shirt off, he just needed his IV to be disconnected and reconnected through the sleeve.

It was the beginning of the shift, crazy start and I'm trying to get Chemo & other things done on time, so I just rush in to help him without wearing gloves.

I forgot to pause the IV pump before I disconnected him, and a some drops of Normal Saline dripped on my thumb from the primary tubing.

BEFORE YOU SAY I SOUND CRAZY, the day before this my nail on that thumb had broke

(real nail) and it was really short down to the nail the point where you can see a slight flash of redness/blood, but not actively bleeding. And it burned every time I used hand sanitizer (Like a small cut).

I washed my hands immediately after leaving this patient's room, but didn't think too much of it nor did I find it serious enough to report because it was the Saline that dripped on my open area, and no visible blood was in the primary tubing.

....But now I'm here a week later, reading something online that said microscopic amounts of Hep C or HIV can be transmitted???

The patient was there for Cancer and had no "known" HIV or Hep C...(no tests were done on admission)

And liver enzymes were normal.

Was there a potential exposure?

I'm worried sick and a slight Hyperchondriac...please help.


118 Posts

I don't work in infection control or employee health, so take what I say with a grain of salt. If it was just NS, I wouldn't worry. Was it always just NS, or did chemo also run through the tubing?

As far as the hep C or HIV, you really should go to employee health even if it was unlikely it transmitted. I know a lot of staff are afraid to go because they're worried they may have done a something wrong, but that's part of the reason they are there. The one downside to waiting so long is they will have to contact the patient to get blood from him to determine if he does have hep c or HIV instead of being able to just draw him on the spot.

The only other thing I could suggest is go to your primary and see if they can do testing and admin prophylactics without having to involve your employer? If it's worrying you this much, it may be worth it to go for peace of mind.


173 Posts

Specializes in Critical Care. Has 2 years experience.

This is really specific for the New York board no? Anyway since the NS is running with pressure towards the patient you should be okay imo.

Editorial Team / Admin

Rose_Queen, BSN, MSN, RN

6 Articles; 11,348 Posts

Specializes in OR, Nursing Professional Development. Has 18 years experience.

Did you report the exposure per the protocol at your facility? They have ways to work through these situations to determine who needs what.

Trauma Columnist

traumaRUs, MSN, APRN

165 Articles; 21,215 Posts

Specializes in Nephrology, Cardiology, ER, ICU. Has 31 years experience.

We can't provide medical advice per our terms of service, please contact occ health

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