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Nurse with HIV
Feb 18, 2004

Greetings and thank you fo rall the wonderful advice. I am a nurse in an ICU. My health is doing very well after recovering from initial ilness with AIDS diagnosis (had pretty low counts when I found out). My concern is...is it legal, ethical, moral for me to continue practicing as a healthcare provider, and if so...what limitations should I set. I have not told my workplace that I am poz for fear of retribution or termination. Needlesticks can only infect the other way (as I'm sure no nurse would jab themself and then stick a patient with that needle), and if I ever have any open cuts or abrasions on my arms I keep them occlusively covered. If I were ever to have any serious cuts, I would call in sick or go home (making whatever excuse necessary). I know I cannot work in surgery or colonoscopy, as the risk for transmission is greater, but am I okay working in the general field of healthcare, and what considerations should I have as an ethical nurse? Thank you for your time and energy in answering my questions.

Response from Ms. Breuer

What a great question. Thank you for your honesty and concern.

You have excellent information already. You pose no threat to the health of any patient unless you are performing a blind invasive procedure. Your care with any open cuts that you may have is certainly the appropriate response on your part.

Policies about the practice of HIV-positive health care professionals are set by the board of individual hospitals. If you don't know your hospital's policy on this, they may not be doing a great job of communicating with their employees. Or they may have no experience with this issue.

This is an issue that the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care deals with all the time. I strongly recommend that you visit their Web site and perhaps schedule a phone conversation with someone in the organization. They are at www.anac.org.

We need great nurses. I hope you have a long career in nursing.



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