On-line version ISSN 0379-8577
The purpose of the research was to describe the experience of nurses in the studied hospital who had been exposed to possible HIV infection during injury or exposure on duty. A qualitative phenomenological descriptive study was used to describe the emotions and non-verbal reactions of the twelve participants during two subsequent in-depth interviews. These were conducted post-exposure, and after counselling and prophylactic treatment took place. The nursing staffs from a selected private hospital were included in the study after exposure of blood and/or human body fluid. After completion of the study, it was found that the exposed staff's experience had two main categories. Firstly, they were grieving for the loss of the concept of being healthy and invincible, blessed with nursing skills and definite goals in life. The bereavement process included phases of denial, anger, anxiety and fear, with recurring thoughts regarding the adverse events, as well as acceptance which developed with time. The bereavement process and shock of the exposure had wider consequences to the family, as well as an impact on the working environment. Most participants reported that they experienced genuine support and compassion from colleagues, at home and in the community. The second category of experience was the physical side effects which participant's developments developed due to the prophylactic antiretroviral therapy. Some participants experienced severe difficulties due to the treatment, while other had fewer problems. Some proposals to adjust and possibly improve the hospital's exposure surveillance system were developed from the research results, including that a 24-hour crisis management system be implemented for exposed staff members; that support groups be started for staff, colleagues and family members; that all staff receive orientation and support during unfamiliar procedures or placement in unknown departments; that all exposures-on-duty be investigated and studied so that pro-active or preventive measures may be devised; and that problems with staffing and working climate be resolved. All the findings and proposals were subsequently addressed to the relevant members of the Hospital Management. If healthcare services wish to retain nursing staff in future, more will need to be done to prevent all types of exposure-on-duty and, if they do occur, to anticipate, manage and shorten the subsequent period of the professional nurse or learner's bereavement.
Keywords : Nurse; experience; HIV; infection; injury; exposure.