A team member tells you she's packing an additional employee under her scrubs. And now she's worried about her safety—and
you might be, too. Will anesthesia hurt her baby? Is it risky for her to be around sick pets or toxic drugs?
Obstetricians say the mother-to-be must determine with her physician what she can safely do based on the unique circumstances
of her pregnancy. But your team member will look to you for information about any pitfalls at your practice. Here are four
things to watch for to keep pregnant team members safe at work.
There can be plenty of physical activity working at a veterinary practice. The pregnant team member—and her coworkers—need
to make sure she doesn't fall victim to:
Strains. No matter how busy things get, a pregnant team member must let other employees do the heavy lifting and restraining—even with
smaller pets. Pregnant women should also avoid strenuous pushing, pulling, and lifting objects more than five or 10 pounds.
Falls. A pregnant team member should wear slip-resistant shoes, and she also needs to be careful getting into and out of vehicles,
going up and down stairs, and even sitting down or getting up from a chair. You can't regulate most of these activities, but
you can remind the employee to take it easy if you see her pushing herself beyond her limits.
Overexertion. A pregnant woman whose work requires prolonged walking or standing is more likely to experience intrauterine growth restrictions
or preterm labor. Frequent sit-down breaks are a must.
2 Exposure to hazardous agents
Standard precautions will take care of most dangers, but don't neglect the rules for:
Lab work. A pregnant employee (along with everyone in the practice) should wear latex or nitrile gloves when handling lab samples and
avoid breathing fumes from chemicals, samples, or cultures. Also, safety glasses offer protection from conjunctival contamination
and absorption during work with liquid chemicals and samples from pets that might have zoonotic diseases. And finally, when
the team member is using chemicals such as formalin, specimen stains, and other fixatives, the work area needs to be adequately
ventilated and containers covered with tight-fitting lids.
Chemotherapy and cytotoxic drugs. Because of the danger cytotoxic drugs pose to fast-growing cells, a pregnant team member should avoid chemotherapy duties
and should not handle patients that have undergone the treatment or touch their samples. This also means she shouldn't handle
containers of cytotoxic agents, including doxorubicin and cyclosporine, because trace residues may be present on the bottles
and enter her body through the skin.
Anesthetic gases. Many pregnant team members worry about exposure to anesthesia. However, these hazards are controllable, so a pregnant worker
can do her job as long as she follows the safety rules. Ventilate the area, especially during periods when the animal isn't
metabolizing all the gas, and consider monitoring the pregnant employee's exposure.
Because it's hard to prevent anesthesia gas from escaping during certain procedures, a pregnant team member should avoid induction
chambers, masked-induction procedures, and refilling the vaporizer.
3 Exposure to radiation
The hazard to a developing fetus from radiation exposure is well documented. However, there's no reason a pregnant woman can't
perform radiographic procedures provided she follows a few basic safety rules. Beyond wearing a full lead apron, a thyroid
protector, and full-hand gloves and keeping body parts out of the primary beam, the pregnant team member should:
Check her dose. Review dosimetry badge reports for the past six to 12 months to ensure that exposure is below 10 percent of the allowable
dose. If the team member is above 10 percent, consider changing your procedures to minimize exposure.
Do it outside. Make sure the patient is sedated or anesthetized and use positioning devices whenever possible so the team member can perform
the procedure from outside the radiography room.
Narrow the focus. Use the collimator to restrict the primary beam to within the size of the cassette.