Oncology Nursing Society Releases Toolkit on Hazardous Drug Handling

July 23, 2018
Lisa Schulmeister, MN, RN, FAAN

Nurses who work with potentially harmful oncology medications should know how to handle them safely, and what to do if they are exposed to hazardous material accidentally.

Nurses who work with potentially harmful oncology medications should know how to handle them safely, and what to do if they are exposed to hazardous material accidentally.

The Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) recently developed the Toolkit for Safe Handling of Hazardous Drugs for Nurses in Oncology—funded by Equashield, a manufacturer of closed system transfer devices (CSTDs). The toolkit includes information on:

  • education and training
  • current standards and guidelines
  • United States Pharmacopeia (USP) <800> standards
  • use of personal protective equipment and CSTDs
  • day-to-day cleaning of hazardous drug preparation and other work surfaces
  • spill management
  • safe handling in the home
  • medical surveillance

Of these topics, perhaps the one that is most confusing to clinicians is medical surveillance of staff who handle hazardous drugs. It is particularly challenging in small infusion centers with a small number of staff members. At a minimum, data should be gathered on workers’ baseline health, which should be monitored throughout their employment. An institution-based or contracted employee health service may be used to perform medical surveillance.

A follow-up plan is needed for workers who experience acute exposure, such as a spill, or for those who have health changes suggesting toxicity. Lastly, an exit examination needs to be conducted when a worker’s employment ends to document their medical, reproductive, and exposure histories.

The toolkit is available at ONS.org.