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Overly concerned about occupational exposure

Aug 11, 2013

Hey, how are you? I really appreciate your time in reading this. I am a healthcare worker actually. I recently performed a stool guiac exam (and rectal exam) on an HIV positive patient. I wore gloves obviously and performed the exam, and went about my business. No tear in the glove, no pricks, no obviously visible blood.

Yet a few days later I found myself very concerned about exposure. I know this fear seems irrational, and being a young physician, I know I cannot think this way for the best interests of patients I have down the road who are HIV positive also, they deserve the same level of care (procedures, exams) as other patients, do. How irrational is my concern of exposure at this point, and do you recommend maybe talking to someone about an anxiety problem that I need to overcome?

Thanks again so much for your time

Response from Dr. Fawcett

Thank you for writing. Sometimes objectivity becomes difficult in the face of irrational fears about exposure. The fear of catching HIV (or something else) can become the outward focus of an underlying anxiety condition. I commend you for recognizing this and encourage you to speak to someone about it. There are very effective cognitive techniques that will help you understand what is really going on and, in the end, make you a more compassionate and effective physician.

Take care,


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