Sorensen, Elizabeth
March 2007
Oncology Nursing Forum;Mar2007, Vol. 34 Issue 2, p497
Academic Journal
Community respiratory viruses are a potential cause of pneumonia and death among hematopoietic stem cell transplantation recipients and patients with hematologic malignancies. Oncology nurses commonly wear masks while in the presence of severe and prolonged neutropenic patients to protect the patient from any potential airborne infections. Currently, there are no evidence based guidelines to support this practice. Furthermore, there are many possible disadvantages to this practice including: social isolation of the patient, delayed response time by nurses, less frequent visits by the nurse, increased equipment requirements and cost, and finally, masks can impair communication from the nurse to the patient resulting in less effective interactions and teaching opportunities. Currently, variability exits in mask type used, length of time used, and frequency of mask changing by the health care provider (HCP). This current practice is implemented in many health care facilities and little evidence exists to support or guide the practice. The purpose of this project is to identify and evaluate the evidence supporting the practice of mask wearing by the health care provider with patients who have severe and prolonged neutropenia and to outline guidelines regarding recommended populations, masks, wear times, and potential disadvantages of the practice. An extensive search of the online databases CINAHL and PubMed was performed using the following search terms: masks, respiratory infections, nosocomial, and immunosuppressed. Institutional policies and procedures, the Oncology Nursing Society guidelines, and CDC guidelines were reviewed. An evidence summary table was developed that describes populations studied, research designs, outcomes and relevant findings that may be applied to practice. A critical appraisal of the literature revealed that limited data were available on the topic due to old research, lack of research regarding the target population, and few randomized control trials. The results from this evidence based practice project will be presented with suggestions for further follow-up and investigation into the practice using randomized control trials in order to set practice guidelines.


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