Chemotherapy takes its toll on a patient’s body, but this treatment may also have an impact on the health and well-being of the healthcare staff who come into contact with it — even if they don’t handle the drugs directly.
Why are chemo drugs so damaging?
Chemotherapy drugs can have lasting benefits for a person who’s battling cancer. However, due to the drug’s effect on fast-dividing cancerous cells, certain healthy cells that divide at a similar rate may be adversely affected as well. When these normally healthy cells react to the medication, it can cause unfortunate side effects such as nausea, sweating, rashes, and hair loss.
While it’s true that chemotherapy drugs are metabolized and expelled in a few hours or days, as highlighted in this article from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the adverse side effects can manifest for a long time after the fact. In addition, potentially toxic residuals can be easily inhaled or absorbed through the skin, so caregivers and hospital staff need to be especially careful when handling equipment, gowns, and bedding that’s come into contact with a chemotherapy patient.
As indicated in this Today’s Caregiver article:
- Acute exposure to drug traces or bodily fluids may cause abdominal pain, rashes, vomiting, and headaches.
- Long-term symptoms of prolonged exposure are thought to increase the chances of birth problems and cancer later in life.
The risk of exposure is heightened by the fact that many health professionals don’t fully embrace protective gear when administering chemotherapy. A study was published in the March 2019 edition of Oncology Nursing Forum of a randomized trial with 396 nurses stationed in 12 American oncology facilities. It concluded that a 2-year web-based educational intervention program did not increase “the suboptimal baseline use of protective equipment.”
Are housekeeping and laundry staff at risk?
The short answer is a resounding Yes!
As this study by the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center found, even clinical staff administering chemotherapy drugs do not use personal protective equipment (PPE) as often as they should.
Cancer patient caregivers and nurses tasked with handling potentially compromised equipment — like bedpans and soiled linens — are at great risk of exposure. Similarly, laundry staff needs to take precautions because soiled linen and clothing can contain traces of the medication. Cleaning staff in the oncology ward should take special care in bathrooms — and especially around toilets — as they may have been soiled or come into contact with the bodily fluids of patients undergoing treatment.
What safety precautions can you take?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was put in place to enforce safety and health standards in the workplace. It is thus the responsibility of managers and owners of facilities that handle potentially dangerous substances to provide protective equipment for their staff. These solutions include protective gloves made of nitrile and are resistant to permeation by the chemotherapeutic agents.
Ventyv® — the solution to providing a safe environment for personnel
Particular Ventyv® gloves should be made available to laundry and housekeeping staff to protect them against residual contamination and exposure from chemotherapy-treated patient bodily fluids.
As cited in the International Journal of Cancer, “For the majority of chemotherapy drugs, nitrile and natural rubber latex glove materials are preferable, while vinyl is inappropriate due to its generally increased permeability.”
Ventyv® is proud to be able to provide the healthcare industry with gloves that are ideally suited to this task. Specifically, our Nitrile Powder-Free Plus 3.5 (Elephant), Nitrile Powder-Free Plus 3.5 (Stallion), Nitrile Powder-Free Plus 5.0 (Kangaroo) and Nitrile Powder-Free Plus 5.0 Black (Bull). For optimum protection, these gloves should be routinely used by ancillary personnel and changed at least every 20 minutes.
A simple truth sits at the heart of all we do at Ventyv® — the gloves we make are disposable, but the people who rely on them to work are not. We take personal protection seriously because those who stand at the frontlines of healthcare deserve to be protected and nurtured like the patients they care for.