September 1992

Impact of Human Immunodeficiency Virus on Medical and Surgical Residents

Author Affiliations

From The Lehigh Valley Hospital, Epidemiology and Infection Control Section and Research Services, Allentown, Pa.

Arch Intern Med. 1992;152(9):1788-1796. doi:10.1001/archinte.1992.00400210030006

Background.—  Previous surveys of resident physicians on human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) matters have tended to focus on urban programs serving a patient population with an expected high prevalence of HIV infection. The objective of this study was to survey a community hospital residency program in a nonurban area with a perceived low HIV patient seroprevalence.

Methods.—  A 32-question survey was completed on an anonymous basis by the entire 74 member multidisciplinary resident physician group at a two-campus university-affiliated hospital program in southeastern Pennsylvania in May 1991.

Results.—  Residents perceived their patient population's HIV seroprevalence rate to be low although they believed their personal risk of occupational exposure to blood-borne infection was moderate to high. House staff most often complied with universal precautions for fear of acquiring a blood-borne illness and most often did not comply because of time constraints. Not perceiving the exposure as a health risk was the primary reason for nonreporting of exposures. Occupational exposure rates were alarmingly high, with suturing using a curved needle being the most common exposure method. Most residents were unfamiliar with HIV legislation. A majority of the house staff wanted improved HIV patient management training and life and disability insurance against occupationally acquired HIV. Many other important issues were addressed in this survey.

Conclusion.—  Residents even in low seroprevalence environments do fear occupationally acquired HIV. A great need exists for improved training in universal precautions, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome legislation, and HIV patient management as well as for insurance against occupationally acquired HIV.(Arch Intern Med. 1992;152:1788-1796)