Minimizing Fentanyl Exposure Risk for Health Care Workers

Written by: J. Brent Allen, Esq. 

Doctors, nurses, phlebotomists and other health care workers on the frontline of saving lives and treating illnesses and injuries face a new threat in the workplace: illicit fentanyl and derivative drugs of unknown provenance.

These illicit drugs pose a potential health hazard to health care workers who may come into contact with unknown substances in the course of doing their jobs. Fentanly and other opioid drugs that originated in the community may have other unknown toxins or harmful substances in them, making them especially dangerous for health care workers.

Illicit fentanyl can come in pill form as well as liquid or powder, and it is often mixed with other drugs, which makes it even harder to detect.

Health care workers should follow established procedures and protocols to protect their safety and the safety of all patients, colleagues, staff and the public by following these recommendations by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • When receiving patients from emergency medical services (EMS) workers, ask for details about the victim and potential contaminants or signs of drug use
  • Assess each patient for possible drug use
  • Be aware of potentially contaminated areas as well as items such as clothing, purses and backpacks, and follow proper decontamination guidelines
  • Don’t touch eyes, nose, mouth or any surfaces that may be contaminated by illicit fentanyl
  • Proper personal protective equipment (PPE) must be worn
  • Wash hands with hot soapy water, and don’t use alcohol-based hand sanitizers, which can increase absorption through the skin
  • Clothing, scrubs and other protective equipment worn by a health care provider that may be contaminated by illicit fentanyl must be segregated from other soiled laundry and identified for special cleaning

Hall Booth Smith’s Opioid Task Force can help your health care staff establish a plan and best practices for handling possible exposure to illicit fentanyl and other opioids that originate in the community. You can reach our team here.