3 Innovations in Healthcare Made by Surgery Nurses

Recent studies about the hazards of surgical smoke, also called diathermy plume, have confirmed what nurses and other perioperative staff have known for years: ablated human tissue is not good for your lungs.

While this may sound intuitive, medical history is rife with accounts of well-established practices that led to less than ideal healthcare outcomes.

From misguided and ineffectual treatments like snake oils or bloodletting, to the more serious misconceptions that led to thousands of unnecessary amputations throughout the 20th century, the path toward medical progress has involved more than a few missteps.

Regardless of the field, innovation requires a big picture perspective. As the Jacks and Jill’s of all trades in the healthcare industry, nurses have the unique opportunity to take a step back and look at all the moving parts involved in patient care.

Not surprisingly, some of the most ubiquitous transformations in OR have come from Nursing professionals. Here are 3 Innovations in Healthcare made by Perioperative Nurses.

1.Cooling Vests for Surgeons

I don’t understand or believe people who say they prefer the Summer. When it’s cold out, you can add as many layers as you want to get comfortable. But society imposes limitations that prevent us from removing layers past a certain point, no matter how hot it is.

Perhaps that is why there exists such a strong correlation between ice cream sales and homicide—when people can’t beat the heat, they start throwin’ hands!

Operating Room nurse Jill Byrne noticed that her colleagues in perioperative care, especially surgeons, were impacted by the heat in the OR. Surgeons known for their kind and calm demeanor would suddenly become irate as the temperature inched upward.

Byrne decided to take action. Her first design for a cooling vest was simply a surgical smock with pockets sewn on the front. She then filled the pockets with portable icepacks that could be replaced and replenished throughout surgery. She has since patented her invention as a surgical staff cooling system.

2. Personalized Protective Equipment

The OR is a highly collaborative and diverse environment. It takes a lot of moving parts, many hands, and as many different perspectives, to properly diagnose and treat problems that occur during a procedure.

However, despite this collaboration, it is important for various actors in the OR to stay in their lanes. In order to rely on the expertise of their colleagues, perioperative staff must be able to identify the individual roles and responsibilities of their surgical team. This becomes difficult to discern in a sea of shapeless Personal Protective Equipment.

Dr. Rob Hackett, a nurse anesthetist from Australia, decided that enough was enough. He saw the lack of transparency in the OR as a risk for patient safety. From this need, a simple solution was born.

Despite some initial hesitation and even some heckling from his peers, Dr. Hackett decided to make a name for himself in his OR by literally putting his name on his surgery cap.


This simple innovation gave way to the #theatercapchallenge, an international movement to increase patient safety by streamlining communication in the OR. Dr. Hackett has gone on to pursue research into the outcomes of his innovation. Initial findings suggest that putting names on theater caps helps reduce the frequency of human error in the OR.

3. Surgical Smoke Safety Legislation

The Association of periOperative Nurses (AORN) is certainly one of the largest and most active nursing advocacy groups in the country.  In fact, this dedicated group of perioperative professionals made waves in the Colorado legislature this year with the passage of a Surgical Smoke Safety Bill.

This Bill, much like the laws that went into effect this past summer in Rhode Island, requires all hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers to be equipped with a surgical smoke evacuation system.

Surgical smoke is hazard to everyone in the OR. But Perioperative Nurses have taken up the charge of clearing the operating theater of this familiar foe. You can learn more about the dangers of surgical smoke and how you can help by checking out our blog.

Watch SAF-T-VAC in Action

Further Reading

Learn More About the Saf-T-Vac® Evacuator

Surgical Smoke Evacuation Guidelines 

What’s the worst thing about Surgical Smoke?

5 Reasons Everyone Loves an OR Nurse

Building a Surgical Plume Evacuation System 

Try the SAF-T-VAC for Free

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