Oncology Nurse Administering Chemo - What affects can this have on our health?


I have been working on an oncology unit for 2 years and I love it. I really love my patients. I do administer chemo but it's maybe once a week or so. I am contemplating a slight change in career - I am considering the move to an infusion center but I know that this will mean coming into contact with chemo a great deal more than I do currently. I feel comfortable administering the chemo but I am wondering if anyone knows the potential long term affects of administering chemo. I have tried using google but sometimes I cannot determine if the information I find there is accurate. I am young and I have not had children yet so I am wondering if the chemo will affect my ability to have children in the future. I am also wondering if the chemo will put me at high risk for cancer myself. I always wear all of the PPE but I am wondering if this is sufficient. Any information/advice that anyone may have is much appreciated - thanks!

Specializes in Vascular Access, Infusion Therapy.

Coming from the outpatient infusion arena myself I can say you are far more likely to have a career ending back injury than a catastrophic event related to administering chemo.

I have heard stories of exposures and close calls but never anything actually as serious as you describe. I have know nurses who have attributed divorces, miscarriages, crippling physical injuries, and mental health issues to the workplace but no serious adverse issues with chemo.

Keep in mind, if the chemo was THAT BAD they would likely not be receiving it on an outpatient basis. In my experience anything hardcore or high risk warranted a few days visit to inpatient Hem/Onc.


483 Posts

When trying to determine the accuracy of information you find on the internet, a good first question is where was the information published.

For this type question, I would check CDC.gov, NIH.gov, and NIOSH.gov.

Any site on the internet ending in ".gov" is a US government agency. Information on those sites is well vetted by experts in the field and is generally accepted by people in that field as being accurate.

Here's what the CDC and NIOSH say about your question. You'll notice that articles on .gov sites provide references to the published research which enables you to then read the source material.

CDC - Occupational Exposure to Antineoplastic Agents - NIOSH Workplace Safety and Health Topic

CDC - Occupational Exposure to Antineoplastic Agents: Effects of Occupational Exposure - NIOSH Workplace Safety and Health Topic

I want to amend what I said about ".gov" being US federal government. Anything that ends with a 2 letter state abbreviation followed by ".gov" is a state government site, e.g. NY.gov, AK.gov, MS.gov, NC.gov, CA.gov

nutella, MSN, RN

1 Article; 1,509 Posts

The last decade there has been a huge progress in terms of safety when it comes to administering chemo in the hospital/ outpatient clinic. Nowadays the chemo is mixed in pharmacy and not on the floors by the nurses anymore and when you follow all the guidelines exposure to chemo is minimal in that setting. However, it could be different in other settings. I have administered 5 FU at home including accessing ports, connecting, flushing, disconnecting and found that the risk of an exposure is more likely in that setting. You sometimes get calls when a patient disconnects by accident during the night and chemo runs out into the bed/linen/ - in that case, even though you have a chemo spill kit, you are more likely to get exposed despite PPE.

I know that there have been concerns from older nurses who are now retired or close to it because they often still mixed chemo on the floors, did not use precautions consistently, and had more exposure all around. Some of those nurses who developed cancer think that this is partly due to their exposure to those substances back in the days.

I agree with the other nurse who talks about back injuries - those patients in the infusion center sit in chairs that do not go up, which means you bend over unless you sit on a small chair. It can be tough to access a port without bending down at all - I know that my back was hurting at times in home care for that reason.