Surgical teams have an obligation of making sure that their facilities are as safe as possible for all their patients. A part of that is doing everything possible to reduce and prevent surgical site infections (SSI).
Did you know that surgical team members themselves can sometimes be the biggest threat to patient safety?
Below are three ways that safer practices inside the OR can help reduce infections and enhance patient safety by ensuring proper scrub wear, head coverings, and laundering.
1. Wearing proper head coverings
It’s easy to stick to personal preference when it comes to head coverings in the OR, like wearing a skullcap featuring a favorite team. But as Lisa Spruce, DNP, RN, CNS-CP, CNOR, ACNS, ACNP, FAAN, AORN director of evidence-based practice, mentioned in Clinical Issue 1.3 in the AORN Journal, “…human skin is naturally colonized with many types of bacteria that are shed into the air. In the perioperative area, these airborne bacteria can fall into the operative field and on environmental surfaces and contribute to the overall contamination of the OR.”1 Skullcaps just aren’t good enough anymore.
By not following proper protocol in head coverings, patients on the table are put at risk. The solution? Bouffant caps. In fact, recommendation IV.a. of the AORN Guideline for Surgical Attire sets the standard for head coverings by specifying that OR staff wear a “clean, low-lint surgical head cover or hood that confines all hair and covers scalp skin [and is] designed to minimize microbial dispersal.”
2. Only wearing surgical attire inside of healthcare facilities.
Going to lunch at a local café or taking a walk outside to get some fresh air might seem like a normal activity to OR staff, but wearing surgical attire outside of the healthcare facility and then returning to work in those same scrubs puts both patients and community members at risk.
Spruce touches on the topic in an Infection Control article, “If soiled (including non-visible soil) surgical scrubs are worn beyond the perioperative setting, bacteria and other pathogens—which can attach to clothing and which may or may not be visible—can expose family and community members to potentially pathogenic organisms.”
Though your scrubs might seemingly look clean to the eye, you could be putting the people around you at risk for infection. Additionally, Spruce goes on to specify surgical staff should “transport and store surgical attire in a way that keeps it contained within a clean environment.”
3. Using accredited laundering facilities.
As simple as it might sound, laundering your surgical attire improperly can also pose a huge risk to your patients and the people around you. As Spruce informed, “Bacteria and other pathogens can adhere to perioperative clinicians’ clothing…Home washing machines and non-accredited laundering facilities simply can’t be trusted to do an adequate job of cleaning surgical attire.”
Because accredited laundering facilities are expected to follow OSHA and CDC guidelines with rigor, utilizing such a facility for laundering surgical attire is the only appropriate and safe choice to ensure that pathogens don’t spread within or beyond the OR.
So how does your facility measure up? Follow the three recommendations above so that you aren’t hindering patient safety with your surgical attire practices but rather helping to keep infection at bay.