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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Michigan: Attacking ‘Invisible Threat’ that Affects Cancer Care Workers

Exposure to chemotherapy can create hazards for nurses and pharmacists as they deliver lifesaving care to patients, but use of protective devices remains low.

A study from the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center sought to improve handling of chemotherapy with an educational intervention. Despite a strong study design and quality intervention, it did not increase use of protective gear.

“We didn’t really move the needle at all. We were hoping to develop a bundled intervention that cancer centers and others can use,” says lead study author Dr. Christopher R. Friese, Elizabeth Tone Hosmer Professor of Nursing and professor of health management and policy at the University of Michigan.

Exposure to chemotherapy occurs when health care workers inhale vapors or touch contaminated surfaces. Studies have found that nurses who handle hazardous drugs had twice the risk of reproductive problems. Other studies report incidences of rare cancers and various other conditions.

“This is an invisible threat,” Dr. Friese says. “It’s unlike a needle stick where you know you’ve been stuck. Early on we could understand that a needle stick conveyed serious health risks. With chemotherapy exposure, we don’t have that smoking gun. This is a subtle threat, but it’s a daily threat.”

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