Substantial Chemo Exposure Rates Among Oncology Nurses

Adequate staffing, frequent verification of doses by two nurses decrease likelihood of exposure

FRIDAY, Aug. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Oncology nurses practicing outside of hospital inpatient units report considerable rates of chemotherapy exposure to skin and eyes, which are lowered with adequate staffing and resources, and adherence to recognized practice standards, according to a study published online Aug. 16 in BMJ Quality & Safety.

Christopher R. Friese, Ph.D., R.N., A.O.C.N., from the University of Michigan School of Nursing in Ann Arbor, and colleagues investigated the relationship between the organizational structures and processes of care in ambulatory oncology settings, and increased risk of unintentional chemotherapy. A total of 1,339 oncology nurses who worked outside of hospital inpatient units were surveyed between April and June 2010. Likelihood of self-reported chemotherapy exposure during the previous year was assessed as a possible function of perceived quality of the practice environment, nursing workload, and seven ambulatory chemotherapy administration safety standards. The overall response rate was 30.4 percent with minimal demographic differences between respondents and non-respondents.

The investigators found that in the year prior to the survey, the overall exposure rate to eyes or skin was 16.9 percent. The likelihood of exposure decreased significantly when nurses reported adequate staffing and resources (odds ratio [OR], 0.35), and when chemotherapy doses were frequently or very frequently verified by two nurses (OR, 0.17), after controlling for demographic characteristics and clustering of nurses in practices.

"Oncology nurses in the ambulatory setting report substantial unintentional skin and eye exposure to chemotherapy," the authors write.

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