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Nurses providing chemotherapy face health risks, academics warn

Website launched to highlight the risks healthcare professionals face when providing chemotherapy to patients

Website launched to highlight the risks healthcare professionals face when providing chemotherapy to patients


Some healthcare professionals are experiencing health problems because of clinical practices
Picture: Alamy

Nurse lecturers have launched a website to highlight the risks healthcare professionals face when providing chemotherapy to patients.

The nurse academics from Birmingham City University (BCU) are calling for the mandatory use of closed system drug transfer devices to minimise the risk of nurses being exposed to potentially dangerous cytotoxic medicines during the chemotherapy treatment process.

This would prohibit the transfer of environmental contaminants into the therapy system and prevent hazardous drugs or vapour concentrations escaping.

Links to training advice

Featuring links to clinical evidence, advice about training and education, as well as news about meetings and events, the website also provides case studies of where healthcare providers have introduced closed systems to protect their staff.  

BCU senior lecturer in cancer care and chemotherapy Alison Simons and BCU senior lecturer in haematology and chemotherapy Samantha Toland are concerned that some healthcare professionals are experiencing health problems because of clinical practices. 

Of 200 nurses they surveyed, almost half responded saying they had experienced health issues such as headache, dizziness or nausea, or combination of two or more symptoms. One in every ten respondents said they had experienced miscarriage or fertility problems, which they attributed to the drugs they had worked with, and a further 9% said they had experienced hair loss.

Follow recommended guidelines

The lecturers work with healthcare providers across the UK to deliver university accredited chemotherapy courses to ensure nurses and their employers are aware of the risks and follow recommended guidelines. The health and safety training is included in the teaching of nursing courses at BCU.

9%

of nurses said they had
experienced hair loss

‘There is now plenty of published evidence showing the dangers nurses face when administering chemotherapy and we’ve heard a lot more anecdotal evidence that has convinced us that closed system drug transfer devices should be mandatory,’ said Ms Simons.

‘Changing clinical practices and introducing new equipment can be time consuming and add to costs, but we feel the benefits far outweigh the challenges.’

Hazards in the workplace

The aim of the website is to enable nurses and their employers to understand more about the hazards facing them in their workplace and to gather further evidence that will convince more healthcare providers to introduce closed systems.

Ms Toland said: ‘As nurses we are always focusing on the patient and trying to make the treatment process as pleasant as possible for them.  In doing so, it’s often easy for nurses to overlook their own safety.

‘They are busy and it can be a temptation to cut corners to get the work done. 

‘Using closed systems to deliver chemotherapy is inherently safer.  

‘We passionately believe that all hospitals and healthcare providers should be using them.’

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