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Chemotherapy-Handling Practices of Outpatient and Office-Based Oncology Nurses

Susan Martin
Elaine Larson
ONF 2003, 30(4), 575-581 DOI: 10.1188/03.ONF.575-581

Purpose/Objectives: To determine the current patterns of use of personal protective equipment among oncology nurses while handling antineoplastic chemotherapeutic agents in outpatient and office-based settings.

Design: Descriptive-correlational, mailed survey.

Setting: National survey of oncology nurses.

Sample: 500 randomly selected members of the Oncology Nursing Society who identified their work settings as office, clinic, or outpatient private practice; 263 responded for an overall response rate of 53%.

Methods: Mailed, self-report survey based on the current Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) guidelines for the handling of hazardous drugs.

Main Research Variable: Chemotherapy-handling practices.

Findings: More than 94% of participants reported usually wearing gloves during chemotherapy handling; 55% reported using laboratory coats as protective garments. Usual use of face and respiratory protection was less than 6%. Chemotherapy was reported to be prepared in laminar air flow hoods in 99% of work settings. Only 46% of sites reportedly provided any type of medical monitoring.

Conclusion: Use and availability of personal protective equipment when handling chemotherapy have increased, but medical monitoring of exposed employees still is neither widely practiced nor consistent with OSHA guidelines.

Implications for Nursing: Safety concerns and potential adverse health effects associated with the occupational handling of chemotherapeutic agents have been reported. Historically, nurses' adherence to chemotherapy-handling guidelines has been poor. Results suggest that adherence is increasing; however, research is lacking regarding nurses' level of knowledge of and specific barriers to safe handling of chemotherapy.

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