When it comes to performing surgery on a patient, operating room technicians have one primary focus: To ensure there are no disease-causing contaminants in the surgical room. Asepsis, the protection against pathogenic microorganisms, is the difference between a successful surgery and a problematic one. It is imperative that operating room technicians not only take every precaution when it comes to maintaining a sterile environment, but that they also understand its immense importance.
You Must be Sterile
As an operating room technician, there will never be a time when you come back from lunch and hop right into surgery. Scrubbing up for surgery is a lengthy process that requires much diligence, before you can even consider touching a patient. In addition to a surgical wash of your hands with soap and brushes, a change of clothing is essential. You will need to be dressed in full surgical attire, including gloves, a mask and a gown. Any germs transported from outside of the surgical room can negatively impact the outcome of the surgery, so every precaution is taken to prevent this.
Everything You Touch Must Also be Sterile
It isn't enough that you are sterile; everything in the room must also be sterile. By using sterile drapes to create barriers, operating room technicians are better able to maintain asepsis within the field in which they are working. These drapes not only cover the equipment and furniture within the room, but the patient. The only part of the patient that is exposed is the area where the surgery is to be performed.
Within this draped barrier, operating room technicians use specially sterilized instruments for their work. Sterilization technicians go to great lengths to ensure that every instrument the operating room technician comes into contact with is sterile by the use of autoclaves, cold sterilization and even steam.
A preliminary inspection of packaging is important because anything that is ripped or damaged cannot be used. Strips of indicator tape on or inside the packaging convey to operating room technicians that it has been compromised and moisture or microorganisms have somehow entered and contaminated it.
Asepsis Must be Maintained
Opening packaging, pouring fluids, and the dispensing of instruments in a sterile environment are all accomplished by two people. A nonsterile person, typically a circulating nurse, will handle things considered to be "unclean," such as the outside of the packaging. When opening a bottle of fluid to pour and use, only what is needed will be kept, and the rest will be discarded as a precaution. The nonsterile person will lift the cap and pour, while the scrubbed person will hold the sterile container the fluid is being poured into. Pouring slowly is important to avoid splashing or spills.
Because operating room technicians are human, accidents can occasionally occur. Should a breach in asepsis occur, an immediate response is required to fix it and keep contamination from spreading. Operating room technicians should also keep in mind that if in doubt, consider an item nonsterile if you can't immediately recall that it isn't. It is always best to err on the side of caution.