Rituals and behaviours in the operating theatre

Kate Woodhead RGN DMS highlights a new report, developed by a working party appointed by the Healthcare Infection Society (HIS) and the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ESCMID). The guidelines aim to minimise ritualistic behaviours occurring in operating theatres without increasing the risk of SSI.

Surgical site infection (SSI) reduction remains an area of priority in surgical practice, for surgical team members and perioperative staff as part of the wider surgical team, as well as for infection control practitioners and microbiology teams in hospital. SSIs can cause considerable harm to patients, resulting in additional pain and suffering (often for months), and can lead to longer stays in hospitals or re-admission, incurring additional costs for the Trust. From every perspective, it is incumbent on the professionals to practice best evidence-based care to reduce as many SSIs as possible. 

Many surgical teams rely on perioperative ‘practice’ as it has been, which may be described as ritualistic, without necessarily reviewing the emerging evidence. This report of work undertaken jointly by a Healthcare Infection Society (HIS) and the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ESCMID) working party1 identified that it had been 20 years since the last set of specific guidelines that it had produced and sought to review and update any guidance for practice. 

As a perioperative practitioner I am privileged to have been involved in both iterations of the guidelines and have learned a great deal. 

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