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Nurse Safety from Exposure to Chemicals and Biologics: Hazard Assessment, Decontamination and the Use of Personal Protective Equipment

Recent events have suggested that US hospitals may be ill prepared to deal with major disease epidemics or large scale chemical or hazardous material disasters. Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Ebola provided a wake-up call with respect to increasing the health care system’s capacity to deal with highly infectious diseases and other public health emergency events. The first consideration in hospital and public health emergency response involving any biologic or chemical event is staff safety.

Nurses need to implement certain precautions when caring for and treating potentially infected or contaminated patients to avoid exposing themselves to the agent/toxin or the physiological effects from wearing and working in personal protective gear. A heightened awareness is needed of the critical importance of the selection and proper use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for the task to which the nurses is assigned. Given that nurses are subjected to exposure to infectious disease and a variety of hazards on a daily basis the profession would be well served to address these issues. Nurse safety is directly related to knowledge of hazard assessment, decontamination and the proper use of personal protective equipment.


Tener Goodwin Veenema

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