In the modern era, many safeguards are in place to protect healthcare workers from becoming ill while doing their jobs. These same precautions also protect patients from contracting illnesses stemming from the healthcare environment. Since there are many ways that diseases can be spread, most American hospitals have policies that guide their employees when caring for patients. One of these, universal precautions, mandates that every body fluid should be treated as if it is infectious. This policy has several benefits when it is carefully followed.
Especially for illnesses with stigmas like HIV, protecting patient privacy is very important. Not only is it usually considered to be the right thing to do, but there are also many laws in place that prohibit healthcare workers from revealing details about a patient’s condition. Since universal precautions mandate that all body fluid is to be regarded as infectious, if these precautions are followed, there is no need to communicate a patient’s disease status. So, the person treating the patient wears gloves, a gown, and a mask as necessary to guard against contact with body fluids.
Universal precautions also make the healthcare environment a safer place. Consider an attractive, healthy looking female patient who is brought into a hospital after a minor car accident, versus a transvestite brought in after a heroin overdose. Either of these patients may be harboring a transmissible disease, so the same precautions should be observed for both. Without rules about universal precautions, it would be likely that fewer precautions would be taken when treating the healthy-looking female patient. As a result of universal precautions, the spread of disease to healthcare workers has become less common. And although it is impossible to make the healthcare environment a completely safe setting, careful policy-making can go a long way toward protecting both workers and patients.