Chemo nurses at risk for drug exposure: study

Ann Arbor, MI – Approximately 17 percent of outpatient chemotherapy infusion center nurses reported being unintentionally exposed to toxic drugs via their skin or eyes, according to a new study from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.

As part of the study, researchers surveyed 1,339 oncology nurses and found fewer exposures occurred in practices with more staff and resources, as well as practices that required two or more nurses to verify chemotherapy orders, a U-M press release said.

Unintentional chemotherapy exposure can affect the nervous and reproductive system and increase the risk of blood cancers. Compared to needlesticks, which involve a specific virus and for which preventive treatments are available, unintentional exposure to chemotherapy is more difficult to tie to a direct health effect, according to researchers.

About 84 percent of chemotherapy is delivered in outpatient facilities, mostly by nurses, researchers said.

The study was published online in the journal BMJ Quality and Safety.

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