Hierarchy – does it matter?

I’m a 28-year cancer survivor of malignant melanoma.  I was only 21 years old when the doctor found a suspicious mole on my shin.  According to doctors, had I waited six more months, I wouldn’t be here.

I had a roommate who died of leukemia at 26.

I had a friend who died from a malignant brain tumor at 30.

My mother died of lung cancer at 62.

My father died of prostate cancer at 68.

As a cancer survivor, someone who has lost family members to cancer and the president of a company that manufactures a safe handling product used with chemotherapy, I understand what cancer is from a patient, insurance, business, and clinical perspective.

I have also been around a lot of medical clinicians and have experienced and witnessed firsthand, the techniques they apply to protect themselves and patients every day. It grabs my attention when I read studies stating those at risk are not only nurses, pharmacists and physicians, but also, anyone who comes in contact with these hazardous drugs including shipping/receiving, laundry services, waste management and environment services personnel.

Professional organizations such as NIOSH, ASHP, ISOPP and ONS have developed effective safety guidelines designed to prevent exposure to hazardous drugs. Historically, in the U.S., we tend to first focus on the employee (personal protective equipment [PPE] such as gowns, gloves and masks). Next, we turn our attention to the room, engineering controls, equipment used to administer the drug, then the hazardous drug itself.

What I want – is to change people’s mindsets about implementing safety practices. First, focus on the initial point of risk, which in this case is the hazardous drug.  Then be aware of the hierarchy of engineering controls (such as chemo hoods), PPE and administrative controls, etc.  But realize how important each step is.  The Hierarchic Order of Protection created by ISOPP can be accessed here.

Eliminating hazardous drugs is not an option as patients need these life-saving drugs and studies have shown that PPE, engineering controls, etc. is not enough. Essential to the safe handling of hazardous drugs is a proven closed-system drug transfer device, such as PhaSeal.

I’ve learned, through my personal and professional experience, how much needs to be done to effectively protect those that handle hazardous drugs. For now, let’s educate others about the safe handling of hazardous drugs, employ all the safe handling practices available, and hold everyone involved accountable.

Let’s rededicate our efforts to educate others at every turn. Join us on Safe Handling Awareness Day (April 20) for the complimentary CE Webinar that will highlight employee safety and the proper handling of hazardous drugs.

Posted on April 6, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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