Welcome to the new Outpatient Surgery website! Check out our login FAQs.
Ideas That Work: ‘Please Place All OR Trash on the Belt’
Practical pearls from your colleagues
Publish Date: September 19, 2022   |  Tags:   Ideas That Work Instrument Reprocessing and Care Waste Management Supply Management
OR Trash
LAST CHANCE Airport-style scanners detect surgical tools that were accidentally thrown away at the end of the case.

In the main OR at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics in Iowa City, surgical instruments were consistently going missing, so a multidisciplinary team sought to pinpoint the source of the issue and correct it. The result was an airport security-style scanning process that recovered $35,000 worth of lost tools over nine months. “We determined that some of our instruments were being accidentally thrown away during the OR clean-up process,” Nurse Manager Anna Carpenter, MSN, RN, CNOR, tells UI Health Care’s publication The Loop. Now, after each surgery, bags of trash are removed from the OR, placed on a conveyor belt and scanned. Each bag is numbered to identify the room and surgery from which it originated. If the scan detects an instrument, it is documented, and a nurse is called to identify the item and process it correctly through the sterile processing department. “When you think about some of the instruments we use in certain procedures, they may be one or two of a kind in terms of the supply we have here,” says Ms. Carpenter. “If we’re missing that tool, we’d be hard-pressed to provide the necessary care to that patient. This process and technology allow us to be there for our patients. It’s also a reminder to be diligent, follow best practices for disposal of trash and sharps, and to think creatively when confronted with a problem.” OSM