Oncology nurses who handle systemic anti-cancer therapies (SACT) are at a greater health risk due to the cancerogenic, mutagenic, and teratogenic effects of SACT on their own bodies. Many legal requirements aim to protect them from these occupational risks. The aim of this study was to describe the reality of occupational safety of German oncology nurses.
During SACT training courses across Germany, participants were asked whether they themselves had symptoms that they attributed to dealing with SACT. They were also asked about the security measures in place in their institutions. The survey was carried out with the Mentimeter® app.
Between 2017 and 2019, a total of 400 oncology nurses took part in the survey. The majority of 39% had 5-10 years of experience with SACT. One third of the participants reported symptoms from handling SACT, 57% in the last two years. The most common symptoms were skin reactions (53%), headache (41%), and taste sensations (28%). The most common reason for this was skin contact with the SACT due to leaks in the infusion bag or system. None of the recommended security measures were implemented in all institutions. The most common measures were preparing the SACT in the pharmacy (90%), in plastic bags and not in glass bottles (82%) and each individually shrink-wrapped (78%). Special SACT infusion systems were used in 62%. Environmental monitoring (10%) and biomonitoring (2%) was rarely carried out. Participants rated their own adherence to safety measures with 87%, those of other nurses with 76%, physicians with 61%, and cleaning staff with 57%.
The number of German oncology nurses who have reported symptoms on their own bodies is alarming. To improve this situation, the known safety measures must urgently be implemented, and the knowledge of the oncology nurses expanded.
Clinical trial identification
Legal entity responsible for the study
Has not received any funding.
The author has declared no conflicts of interest.