Universal precautions relate to the management of blood-borne viruses such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis B and C. Advice on the transmission of blood-borne viruses and the precautionary measures used to reduce or eliminate cross-infection have been addressed by national and professional bodies. There is a significant amount of research which assesses trained nurses' knowledge of universal precautions and includes understanding of the transmission routes of blood-borne viruses and the measures required to prevent cross-infection. However, the majority of the literature indicates an incomplete knowledge among trained nurses of the principles and application of universal precautions. The ability of the trained nurse to fulfil his/her role as health educator, teacher and therefore effective infection control practitioner is questioned by the literature. This article discusses the role of education in improving the knowledge of trained nurses and considers the implementation of in-service training and preregistration education.