This Way to the OR, Infection Preventionists

Many infection preventionists trust that everyone working in the operating room knows what they are doing and many times shy away from going into the OR. That’s a mistake.

In fall 2016, I was on my way to work at 8 AM on a Monday when my cell phone rang. It was the surgical department of a 350-bed acute care hospital in Texas where I served as an infection prevention (IP) consultant. They wanted to report that some instruments were used on a patient over the weekend even though the biological indicator failed.

To be of help in an operating room (OR) an IP must grasp 4 key concepts about biological indicators: what a biological indicator is (an indicator that goes into each pack of surgical instruments to determine that each instrument gets sterilized), where it is placed in the instrument pack (in the middle), how it is documented (in a freestanding notebook in the OR), and what to do with a patient who had surgery with potentially nonsterile instruments (notify the infection control department).

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