Teamwork Between ICPs and Perioperative Nurses is Key to Infection Prevention

The importance of teamwork in the healthcare environment cannot be overstated, especially when it comes to the prevention of infections. Thats why in this months issue, being distributed at the annual Congress of the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN), Id like to talk about the need for infection control practitioners (ICPs) to befriend their nursing colleagues in the operating room (OR). The OR culture may be different from other departments in the hospital, and they may not speak the same language as it were, but perioperative personnel are on the same page when it comes to fighting surgical site infections (SSIs) and championing aseptic technique.

No one said it better than Barbara J. Gruendemann, RN, MS, FAAN, CNOR, who wrote in a 2004 guest editorial in the American Journal of Infection Control (AJIC), Because up to 75 percent of perioperative practices are aimed at the prevention of infection, we can say that infection prevention activities are the heart and soul of perioperative nursing.1

Gruendemann explains that ICPs and perioperative nurses benefit from collaboration in everything from SSI prevention, to conducting surveillance and outbreak investigation, or tackling the challenge of multidrug-resistant organisms. After all, Gruendemann says, Aseptic practices, decontamination, disinfection, sterilization, surgical scrubbing, gowning, and gloving, to name a few, are processes that are based on infection control principles. Similarly, ICPs benefit from seeing real-life applications of infection prevention in the operating unit. Perioperative staff can provide a unique perspective to infection control committee discussions, and can demonstrate how the operating unit is a microcosm of aseptic practices and a laboratory of best practices to reduce the risk of SSIs. These practices also have relevance for other clinical areas of the hospital. But the ultimate shared goal for both infection control and perioperative specialties must be prevention of infections and other adverse events for surgical patients.

The scope of perioperative practice is evolving, but some imperatives, such as infection prevention techniques, remain constant. Gruendemann describes scrub nurses as the keepers of the sterile field and the instruments, and that the nonsterile circulating nurse is the gatekeeper of the room and coordinates the activities of the surgical team. These roles become increasingly challenging, as Gruendemann points out, as the shortage of perioperative nurses persists. Outgoing AORN president Mary Jo Steiert, RN, BSN, CNOR, concurs, emphasizing that it is more critical than ever before to recruit, retain and respect perioperative nurses. Steiert, who says she relishes the great spirit of perioperative nursing, shares her thoughts on the field and current challenges in a Q&A that starts on page 62.

If you are attending this years AORN Congress in Anaheim, please be sure to stop by booth 235 and say hello to the ICT team.

Until next month, bust those bugs!

Kelly M. Pyrek 
Group editor, Virgo Publishing Medical Group 


1. Gruendemann BJ. Collaboration between infection control and perioperative professionals. Am J Infect Control. Vol. 32, No. 2, Pages 55-56. April 2004.