Chemo safety and nurses

  1. Sue Crump braced as the chemo drugs dripped into her body. She knew treatment would be rough. She had seen its signature countless times in the ravaged bodies and hopeful faces of cancer patients in hospitals where she had spent 23 years mixing chemo as a pharmacist.

    Now she hoped those same medicines would kill the tumor cells lurking in her belly. At the same time, though, she wondered whether those same drugs may have caused her cancer to begin with.

    Harnessing toxic agents to save a life demands a delicate balance. Chemo is poison, by design. Descended from deadly mustard gas first used against soldiers in World War I, now it’s deployed to stop the advance of cancer.

    I just read this article below, and wanted to share it with everyone on here. I was suprised by how dangerous it was to handle.

    Last edit by brian on Jul 12, '10
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    About escapebigd, MSN, APRN

    Joined: Oct '09; Posts: 266; Likes: 148
    NP; from TX , US
    Specialty: 5 year(s) of experience


  3. by   MariahCareyizQUEEN!
    OMG this is so sad, especially if you seen the video with her talking. She died last year, but that goes to show you that many medications are a double edged sword and yes chemo does cause cancer ironically, but I guess the benefits of eradicating the body of the carcinogen already outweighs the potential harm of causing more cancer. Pharmacist Sue Crump is hurt, you can see she is hurt especially when she starts crying you can literally see how she just feels helpless.
  4. by   Moogie
    When I was a young nurse in the early 1980s, I worked medical oncology for a short time. I have to admit that I wasn't very comfortable with the setting because there weren't many precautions that were being taken to protect the safety of the nurses administering chemo. This was back in the day of nurses not wearing gloves because patients might "feel bad" if we approached them with as much as gloves covering our hands. So many of the nurses administering chemo would only wear gloves---at the most---to protect themselves.

    Some of the nurses who administered chemo on a regular basis were pregnant! I wasn't married at the time but I remember thinking that it just seemed like a tremendous risk for someone to handle chemotherapy agents while pregnant. Not to sound judgmental but it would have been too much of a risk for me to take. Now I have to wonder if there were any adverse outcomes for any of the nurses or their children. Honestly, it takes a lot to freak me out but it freaked me out to watch pregnant nurses administer chemo.

    I came, I saw, I transferred.
  5. by   EmilyLucille523
    I worked as a pharmacy tech for a cancer clinic before becoming a nurse for a few years. I mixed all the meds mentioned in the article as well ("...cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, fluorouracil, methotrexate. And the list went on. “Yeah, I worked with all of them,” she said.)

    Even though we also had a laminar flow hood, used gloves, gowns, masks, and foot covers, I still was exposed to some meds by accidently being sprayed upon when drawing up the medication or by dropping vials which had the chemo agent in powder form (accidentally breathing it in) and/or having to clean up spills from puntured IV bags with chemo in it, etc... All incidents where rare and far inbetween but sometimes they happened as you go get the supplies and meds you needed BEFORE you were to put them in the protective flow hood to get them prepped for mixture.

    I remember trying to get pregnant for 2 years while I worked there and couldn't, which was unusual because I had gotten pregnant the 1st time very easily when I was not working as a Chemo tech. I even mentioned it to a safety OSHA official of the hospital and he blew me off and told me it must have been related to another health issue of mine and that they had very good safety protocols in place.

    Then a co-worker (also a pharmacy tech who worked there for 14 - 15 years) was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She had brain surgery and survived but we always wondered if it was work related. She continues to work at that cancer clinic.

    When I finally quit because I wanted to go to nursing school, they were starting to use the completely closed air flow hood where you put your arms into these very thick gloves that were attached inside the metal work area. However, this flow hood was optional to use and many of the pharmacists and techs didn't use it because it was to bothersome and the gloves were hard to work with.

    To this day I still tell my husband that I will not be surprised if I am one day diagnosed with cancer. But even if I were to, I know I would not be listened to if I ever were to put in a work claim or whatever just because my Mom also died of cancer at 59 and I was a smoker for a few years as well (quit in 2001). I will never know for sure if it will be work related or not, if due to family history, or due to my stupidity of smoking.

    That is why I truly admire those Oncology nurses, pharmacists, and pharmacy techs who do their job to save others while taking a risk of their own. That is the highest example of compassion and caring that I know and it broke my heart and I cried with Sue Crump's video which is found in this article. She gave her own life to save others.
    Last edit by EmilyLucille523 on Jul 14, '10 : Reason: grammer
  6. by   NurseEducatorMEL
    I think there is a certain irony that the nurse pictured in this story about how dangerous chemo is is now wearing the appropriate protective gear (no coat). Protect yourself! Precautions are in place for a reason.
  7. by   nrice28
    I don't really have many words right now.. This poor woman looked exactly like my mom did before she died. My mom used to say that it was the chemo that was killing her. She said it felt like an atomic bomb going off in her body. The last 6 months of my moms short life she finally just refused chemo. No one blamed her. The cancer just kept coming back. But it is truly a shame that this woman had to suffer and her family had/has to suffer because she was just doing her job. I actually was thinking of becoming an oncology nurse but now I really don't think its a good idea. Why is this story just NOW becoming a topic? I just don't understand how the gov't hasn't made it an important topic/ agenda. I mean, these people go to school for years to finally graduate, work, and then what? Get cancer? wow...its just really so unfair and it is truly just saddening. What a courageous woman to go on T.V. and tell her story and still help others even though her help ended up killing her. -during my moms last couple of weeks she wouldn't let anyone come over, she was always so sweet and never complained..really never...but I guess when you know your going to die and you know you look that way you just want to be alone and with family. All I can say is atleast now this generous woman is out of pain. I am sure my mom welcomed her with open arms! Thanks for sharing this..I will definitely pass on this story to others.
  8. by   Maria Lenore,RN
    As nurses, we have a responsibility, to protect our patient as well ourselves .... do not forget to wear protective gears.........