Archive April 2018 XIX, No. 4

Taking Their Last Breath

What if frontline staff demanded smoke-free ORs?

Dan O

Dan O'Connor, Editor-in-Chief



You can see it and smell it, it can make your eyes sting and your throat sore, yet surgical smoke hangs thick in the air of countless ORs across the country, a health hazard that's harder to get rid of than a pushy salesman. It seems nothing has worked and everything's been tried — from passionate pleas from OR nurses tired of working a job that requires them to inhale the smoke of burning tissue to national campaigns and a push to pass laws requiring surgical plume evacuation.

Meanwhile, hospitals and surgery centers have trumpeted that they've gone smoke-free, banning smoking anywhere in the facility or on the grounds. Yet how many smoke-free facilities have also enforced a surgical smoke filtration policy in their operating rooms? A long-time OR nurse at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Mass., is on a crusade to make surgical plume in her ORs disappear just as the ashtrays by the entranceway vanished.

Baystate has been smoke-free for years — "with one glaring exception to this rule: the operating room," writes Maureen Fournier, BSN, RN, CNOR, in an interdepartmental newsletter. "Unfortunately, we cannot come in to work and request a non-smoking room if we work as operating room staff."

Ms. Fournier is normally "pretty reserved," but she has stepped up to champion the cause. She and her colleagues at the Chestnut Operating Room, a 12-OR hospital outpatient department connected to the main hospital, are hoping a grassroots effort will propel change. They've had large and small group discussions, and created bulletin boards and posters at the scrub sink to help educate and inform.

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