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Nurses' Use of Hazardous Drug-Handling Precautions and Awareness of National Safety Guidelines

Martha Polovich
Susan Martin
ONF 2011, 38(6), 718-726 DOI: 10.1188/11.ONF.718-726

Purpose/Objectives: To determine patterns of personal protective equipment (PPE) used by oncology nurses while handling hazardous drugs (HDs) and to assess knowledge of the 2004 National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Alert and its effect on precaution use.

Design: Descriptive, correlational.

Setting: The Oncology Nursing Society 31st Annual Congress in Boston, MA, in 2006.

Sample: 330 nurses who prepared and/or administered chemotherapy.

Methods: Nurses described HD safe-handling precaution use by self-report survey.

Main Research Variables: The availability and use of biologic safety cabinets and PPE.

Findings: Respondents were well educated (57% had a bachelor's degree or more), experienced (X = 19, SD = 10.2 years in nursing and X = 12, SD = 7.9 years in oncology), and certified (70%; majority OCN®). Forty-seven percent of respondents were aware of the NIOSH Alert. Thirty-five percent of all participants and 93% of nurses in private practice settings reported preparing chemotherapy. Glove use (95%-100%) was higher than that reported in earlier studies, and gown use for drug preparation (65%), drug administration (50%), and handling excretions (23%) have remained unchanged. Double-gloving was rare (11%-18%). Nurses in private practices were less likely to have chemotherapy-designated PPE available, use PPE, and use spill kits for HD spills.

Conclusions: Nurses have adopted glove use for HD handling; however, gown use remains comparatively low. Chemotherapy-designated PPE is not always provided by employers. Nurses lack awareness of current safety guidelines.

Implications for Nursing: Nurses must know about the risks of HD exposure and ways to reduce exposure. Employers must provide appropriate PPE and encourage its use. Alternative methods of disseminating safety recommendations are needed.

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