Increasing oncology nurses use of protective equipment and decreasing exposure to hazardous drugs is the goal of a new nurse-led study. Researchers at the University of Michigan School of Nursing and Comprehensive Cancer Center in Ann Arbor have received a $2.3 million grant for the new study, called DEFENS: Drug Exposure Feedback and Education for Nurses Safety.
There are significant acute and long-term side effects from hazardous drug exposures in oncology settings, but not enough evidence-based, risk-reduction efforts to protect healthcare workers, Christopher Friese, PhD, RN, AOCN, FAAN, University of Michigan School of Nursing assistant professor and member of U-Ms Comprehensive Cancer Center and Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, said in a news release.
The four-year study, with funding from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, will examine oncology RNs use of personal protective equipment and biological exposure to hazardous drugs at 11 healthcare institutions nationwide.
Nurses are the single largest group of oncology care providers, Friese said. Patients and families work with nurses the most when chemotherapy is part of treatment. Its important to recognize the need for well-prepared oncology nurses to deliver care safely and avoid poor outcomes.
In a preliminary study, Friese found that among 242 surveyed oncology nurses, 16.9% reported dermal or eye exposure to hazardous drugs in the past year, according to the release. Organizational factors such as nursing workloads, practice environments and performance of safety behavior are associated with an increased risk of spills.
DEFENS has two key components. First, nurses will provide information concerning chemotherapy spills in the clinic and provide blood samples to determine whether the agents are detectable. Second, nurses will receive an educational module on safe drug handling, with and without specific feedback about how to improve their practice. The goal is to increase the number of nurses who use protective equipment on a consistent basis. More than 300 nurses will participate in the study.
Over 20 million doses of chemo are given annually in infusion centers, Friese said in the release. We believe the data gathered from this study can be used to inform practice and make policy changes that will improve the safety of a large number of healthcare workers.