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Advancing Surgical Safety: Becoming Smoke-Free in the Operating Room

During this year’s International Surgical Conference & Expo, hosted by the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN), a pioneering project was unveiled. Titled ‘Becoming Smoke-Free in the OR,’ this initiative was brought forth by the dedicated team from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). The project underscores the criticality of smoke evacuation in surgical environments, a topic of paramount concern unpacked through a series of presentations at the conference.

It all began when MGH team members, who attended the AORN conference in previous years, recognized the substantial risks associated with the inhalation of surgical smoke and plumes in the operating room. This insight sparked a thorough investigation back at their home hospital, eventually culminating in the presentation of their work at this year’s conference. The team, comprising Emily Browne, Kimberly Fougere, and Shelley Almeida, now leads a smoke evacuation committee that includes members from various hospital departments.

The project, ‘Smoke-Free in the OR,’ has inspired significant transformations in both surgical and nursing practices at MGH. For starters, it has augmented staff education around the hazards presented by surgical smoke, leading to a higher level of awareness among teams in the operating room. Secondly, the introduction of dedicated smoke evacuation devices in all relevant procedures became a new norm, further supporting policy enactments to mandate consistent use of these devices.

This mission to maintain an environment prioritizing safety extended beyond the initial six-month timeframe aimed for total implementation. However, the team remains committed to achieving a 100% smoke-free standard by 2024.

The importance of championing the use of smoke evacuation devices in all surgical procedures is crystal clear. Therefore, perioperative nurses must take a leading role in adapting their organizations’ policies to ensure the consistent implementation of such practices. It goes beyond the institutional level, with nurses needing to engage with legislators to support bills related to surgical smoke evacuation.

Finally, all the detailed proceedings of the AORN International Surgical Conference & Expo 2024 will be accessible via Infection Control Today’s coverage. The conference served as an invaluable platform for medical professionals to gain insights into critical topics like infection control and antimicrobial resistance, surgical safety, and hand hygiene practices.


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