Tiffany Rouillier, R.N., the UF Health Shands Cancer Hospital Bone Marrow Transplant Unit 7 West nurse manager, was between shifts when her phone lit up with text messages: There was a medication spill on her unit. A large, hazardous spill.
“My first thought was, ‘Keep the patient safe, keep the staff safe,’” she said.
The incident revealed a problem: There wasn’t a reliable response process in place to deal effectively and safely with hazardous spills larger than 5 milliliters. Staff members improvised a solution and cleaned the room, but Rouillier knew an action plan was necessary.
Along with leaders from other core service areas, Roullier created an investigative task force known as the Hazardous Spills team. The interprofessional team had three core goals: Figure out why the spill happened, develop systemwide procedures to safely handle hazardous materials and educate staff members about the changes. Hazardous material is any substance that can potentially harm humans or the environment.
Many drugs used to treat the sickest patients, like chemotherapy, immunosuppressant medications and antivirals, are classified as hazardous and can be dangerous if they are administered or disposed of improperly.
Two years later, the team is confident they accomplished their goals. The most crucial change, Rouillier said, is a hazardous spills hotline set up through the Enterprise Building Operations Center, or EBOC, a UF Health Shands Facilities Development department that monitors building and security systems. Now, clinical care staff can call the hotline, 352-265-0911, to initiate a fast, efficient response to hazardous spills in the north and south campus facilities.
“One call does it all,” said Bobby Baird, UF Health Shands Facilities Development Facility Operations director. “EBOC representatives orchestrate the response. They ask key questions and walk through an algorithm to figure out what actions need to occur.”
The team also worked closely with UF Health Shands Pharmacy representatives to ensure hazardous material is prepped in a sterile, safe environment. Units are now stocked with personal protective equipment and spill kits, while all clinical care staff are trained to respond to hazardous spills.
EBOC staff have since received several calls on the hotline, and the team reports the process has worked as intended. Those involved responded efficiently and appropriately, and the spills were safely cleaned.
“While it would have been nice not to have the spill in the first place, as an organization we did the right thing,” Baird said. “We brought together an interdisciplinary team to ensure the safety of our staff and patients.”