Scrub Etiquette In Healthcare: Best Practices And Professional Standards

In a setting that demands tight control of pathogenic spread and environmental sterility, scrub etiquette has played a crucial role in the success of healthcare services everywhere.

In simple terms, it refers to a set of guidelines for how to wear and care for scrub suits in a healthcare setting. Its main goal is to help healthcare practitioners reduce the contamination risk as much as possible. This is done by all surgical team members before every operation, from the surgeon down to the surgical first assistant and circulating nurse.

Those pursuing surgery and other adjacent healthcare careers can learn about it as part of their studies. This article can help you get started.

Who Sets The Standards For Scrub Etiquette?

The first time the protocol was introduced and codified is unknown, though some historians estimate it to be in the early 20th century. As research into pathogens and sanitation in surgical settings grew, a variety of organizations began investing time and effort into solidifying codes for scrub etiquette. Among them was the Association of Operating Room Nurses (AORN), which started in 1949 with one of its founding goals being this.

Currently, the Joint Commission, the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are the leading bodies in developing and enforcing scrub etiquette. They work with other organizations in advancing research into its efficacy in today’s field, handing their insights to other parts of the healthcare system.

That includes ancillary service providers like manufacturers of surgical products. They follow these guidelines in creating the gear and products surgical teams must use in the theater, from soaps to scrub pants.

Of course, knowledge of scrub etiquette continues to grow and adapt as healthcare demands and challenges evolve. All care practitioners must do their best to stay updated on these changes to continue with their mission: advancing the welfare of their patients.

Scrub Etiquette In Healthcare

Current Standard Steps

Today, surgical teams around the globe follow this sequence in preparation for operations:

  • Prepare clean, wrinkle-free scrubs. They should be washed after each use and must never be worn outside the healthcare setting.
  • Tuck your scrubs in. It reduces the surface area pathogens and other biohazards can cling to within and outside the theater. This will help to prevent the spread of bacteria from your skin to other surfaces.
  • Keep your scrubs clean and dry. Wet scrubs can harbor and encourage bacterial growth, so keeping them clean and dry is essential.
  • Avoid wearing jewelry. Jewelry can harbor bacteria and can also get in the way of your work. The same goes for other accessories like bracelets and wristwatches.
  • Scrub your hands and forearms thoroughly before entering the operating room. This is the most critical step in preventing the spread of infection. It’s crucial to start from the hands and then go to the arms, as the latter has more surface area.
  • Use a surgical scrub brush and antimicrobial soap. The brush helps to remove dirt and debris from your skin, and the soap helps to kill bacteria.
  • Scrub for at least 2 minutes. This is the amount of time it takes to kill most bacteria, as stated by the CDC.
  • Scrub in a circular motion. This helps to ensure that all areas of your hands and forearms are clean.
  • Rinse your hands and forearms thoroughly. This will remove any soap residue.
  • Dry your hands and forearms with a sterile towel. This helps to prevent the spread of bacteria.
  • Put on sterile gloves and gown. These garments provide a barrier between your skin and the patient’s skin, helping to prevent the spread of infection and contact with biohazards.

By following these guidelines, surgical teams maximize the protection they offer themselves and their patients. That goes a long way in securing the success of operations, reducing rehospitalizations, and ensuring full recovery.

Best Practices

Aside from the above guidelines, there are some things surgical practitioners must also note:

  • Be aware of your surroundings: Once an operation starts, you can expect to come into contact with various substances, organic and otherwise. At any point, you can cause cross-contamination. It’s best to avoid touching contaminated surfaces, such as the floor or bedrails.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze: This will help to prevent the spread of germs.
  • Dispose of your scrubs properly: Scrubs should be washed after each use and should not be recycled.

These small considerations contribute to an overall culture of responsibility, which is vital for proper scrub etiquette.

Down To The Letter

All these steps may sound like mere preliminaries for the other essential activities in the healthcare setting. But they are key to making care outcomes possible in the most critical modes of practice.

Stay updated on the latest guidelines today.

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