Hazardous Drug Spills Put Cancer Nurses at Risk

Nurse with PPE

While lifesaving to cancer patients, chemotherapy drugs can be hazardous for the health care workers who handle them, especially during a spill.

Inconsistent use of personal protective equipment when cleaning up a spill and problems with closed-system transfer devices — which are designed to prevent the release of toxic vapors and liquids — topped issues uncovered by a University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center-led safety study involving nearly 400 nurses across 12 academic infusion centers.

The findings, which appear in the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing, highlight the need to improve reporting and training, and for additional research into the underlying causes of hazardous spills, the authors say.

“Our data show that there were more spills happening than might be expected and when they happen, nurses are often not following best practices to protect themselves from hazardous chemicals exposure,” says lead study author Christopher R. Friese, Ph.D., R.N., Elizabeth Tone Hosmer Professor of Nursing and a professor of health management and policy at U-M. “There’s no national database for these type of spills, like there is for needle sticks, and our survey is a snapshot that points to a serious, widespread problem.”

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