By Marci Andrejko, BSN, RN, OCN®

In light of the recent Ebola outbreak, there has been a heightened sense of awareness regarding personal protective equipment (PPE). Although contact with Ebola as an oncology nurse would be unusual, contact with hazardous drugs is a frequent occurrence. Despite the increased awareness of safe handling, there is still resistance to its implementation. Without the use of safe handling procedures, nurses are at an increased risk for exposure, leading to serious and potentially life-threatening adverse outcomes.

Resistance is often grounded with reasons. For example, I think back to when I was working on a busy oncology unit. I would always wear the required PPE, double gloves and a closed front gown. However, thinking I was saving the facility money, I would reuse the gown. I thought since I did not spill on it, it must be safe to use again.

My practice changed after an oncology nurse colleague shared her personal story regarding infertility issues, which were possibly caused by exposure to chemotherapy drugs. My heart broke for her. I knew then, I did not want to tell the same story myself. From that day forward, I pledged to protect others and myself from the risks of exposure. Resistance to following safe handling procedures not only puts you at risk, but also your colleagues, patients, and visitors as well.

I am honored to be coordinating a preconference session on safe handling at the ONS 40th Annual Congress, to be held April 23-26 in Orlando, FL. The session will feature experts in safe handling guidelines and first-hand experiences of the implementation of a safe handling program.

Take the time to review your institution’s safe handling procedures and think about how you can decrease the risk of exposure. Do not let reasons for resistance cause undue harm.

This article originally appeared on the ONS Connect site at


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