Archive June 2018 XIX, No. 6

Ideas That Work: No Sweat

Tracking OR Humidity Levels

Bible Study
HUMIDITY HEADACHES Use a temperature-humidity monitor you can buy in any office supply store to measure relative humidity once a day.

If monitoring the daily humidity levels in your ORs causes you to break out in a cold sweat, I've got a simple solution. Don't continuously monitor humidity. You can't keep up with the minute-to-minute fluctuations. A room can float above and below safe humidity levels several times an hour. CMS recommendations state that we should keep the humidity between 20% and 60% within the perioperative area — including ORs, recovery area, instrument processing rooms and sterilization areas — and under 60% in the sterile storage areas. They also state that we must monitor and document relative humidity levels in each room every day, but they don't say how often. So why not do the bare minimum?

Using a basic temperature-humidity monitor you can buy in any office supply store, our maintenance department measures humidity levels every midnight in our ORs and 2 storerooms, and charts the levels in a log. When state inspectors and accreditation surveyors ask to see our humidity logs, this is what we show them — and it passes muster every time.

If the humidity falls out of range, we inform the maintenance department that the humidity is too high or too low and instruct them to make the necessary changes to the humidification system in order to bring the humidity back into the proper range. The midnight nurse will inform the daytime OR charge nurse of the humidity problem during the handoff report. The OR charge nurse will inform the staff of the humidity problem, so that staff can take the necessary precautions. For example:

  • If the humidity is too high, there is an increased risk of moisture on the instruments and supplies. We'll closely inspect the trays for watermarks and rips.
  • If the humidity is too low, there is an increased risk of static electricity causing a fire hazard in the OR. We'll take extra time when dealing with flammable liquids and fire ignition sources.

John Olmstead, RN, MBA, FACHE
The Community Hospital
Munster, Ind.

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