Advancing Occupational Health: Duke’s AnnMarie Walton Co-Edits Book on Safe Handling of Hazardous Drugs

Advancing Occupational Health: Duke’s AnnMarie Walton Co-Edits Book on Safe Handling of Hazardous Drugs

Duke School of Nursing faculty, AnnMarie Walton, PhD, MPH, RN, OCN©, CHES, FAAN has co-edited the recently launched fourth edition of Safe Handling of Hazardous Drugs with MiKaela M. Olsen, D.N.P., APRN-CNS, AOCNS©, FAAN of Johns Hopkins Medicine.

AnnMarie Walton

Healthcare professionals often find themselves navigating complex environments where patient care intersects with occupational health. One area that demands attention is the safe handling of hazardous drugs. These substances, while essential for treating various medical conditions, can pose significant risks to the very individuals administering them. 

“I am passionate about safe handling of hazardous drugs because healthcare workers who work in settings where these drugs are given are largely unaware of the risks they pose to their own health- risks for acute effects like nausea, headaches, skin rashes, short-term effects like alopecia, and longer-term effects like adverse reproductive outcomes and risk for genotoxicity which increases cancer risk,” said Dr. Walton. “I practiced as an oncology nurse for 13 years administering these drugs and some of the patients we treated with these drugs had developed a secondary cancer as a result of being treated for a first one.”  

The landscape of hazardous drug administration is evolving, necessitating heightened awareness and education across various healthcare settings. Dr. Walton adds that evidence has mounted for the last 50 years about exposure to these drugs, but their use continues to expand for a number of reasons:  

  • Aging Population: Our population is aging, leading to an increased prevalence of cancer cases. 

  • Home and Long-Term Care Settings: Hazardous drugs are now administered not only in hospitals but also in-home care and long-term care facilities. This expansion increases the number of individuals potentially exposed to these drugs. 

  • Non-Malignancy Use: Additionally, hazardous drugs are being prescribed for non-malignant conditions. Consequently, healthcare professionals who may not have received specific training on safe handling are administering these drugs. 

The fourth edition of Safe Handling of Hazardous Drugs delves into a wealth of new research related to the safe management of these substances. This spiral-bound guide equips healthcare professionals with evidence-based practice guidelines to enhance safe handling practices in both oncology and non-oncology settings. Whether in home care, operating rooms, or long-term care facilities, this edition provides insights for healthcare workers.  

This book includes healthcare workers previously under-considered in the newest literature. It also gives guidance on newer routes of administration and safe handling strategies for administration done outside of oncology healthcare settings. 

“This work is a two-year labor of love that includes a great review of the last 10 years of literature on environmental monitoring, adverse health outcomes, policy, and most importantly evidence-based strategies on how to handle these drugs safely- for all healthcare workers- from those in shipping and receiving, to those who compound the drugs, those who administer them, and those who handle the body fluids or clean the rooms of patients who have received them,” said Dr. Walton.  

Notable features of the latest edition of the book include: 

  • Expanded Content: The book delves deeper into engineering controls, administration, and strategies aimed at minimizing surface contamination and exposure. 

  • Inclusive Focus: It now encompasses all healthcare professionals who encounter hazardous drugs. This includes nursing assistive personnel, pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, occupational health providers, environmental services workers, and those involved in shipping and receiving. 

  • Critical Importance: As hazardous drugs continue to evolve and impact a wider range of contexts, it is crucial for oncology nurses and other healthcare practitioners to stay informed about the latest research and evidence-based practices. 

“It’s critically important that healthcare workers are aware of their exposures and take steps to keep themselves safe, including advocation for administrative controls like education and training, and engineering controls that will help keep them safe,” said Dr. Walton.  

Learn more about the book here.  

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