Key notes on contaminated medical instrument transportation preparation

In the healthcare setting, it's critical for nurses and staff members to appropriately prepare for handling and transporting contaminated medical instruments and waste. Without the proper precautions, healthcare professionals could expose themselves and others to hazardous waste with lasting implications.

Healthcare facilities should develop a plan for handling and transporting contaminated instruments, and all staff should understand the protocol. Healthcare workers can wear protective attire, including gloves, surgical masks and gowns or other uniforms.

The Association of periOperative Registered Nurses and Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation developed guidelines addressing the sterilization and care of surgical instruments.

The surgical team can take specific steps perioperatively to avoid exposure during the postoperative process, including:

• Wiping down the surface of instruments with a sterile surgical sponge moistened with water.
• Irrigate lumens with sterile water to keep them clean and avoid biofilm formation.
• Keep instruments moist until they are decontaminated so bioburden doesn't dry and adhere to the instrument.

After surgery, the surgical staff should properly prepare the instruments for transfer to a decontaminated area by:

• Separating waste, linen and disposables from instrumentation
• Segregating sharps
• Deconstructing multipart instruments
• Protecting delicate items
• Arranging instruments in an orderly fashion
• Keeping instrument sets together

To ensure the instruments stay moist during the post-surgical period, place a wet towel over the instrument or treat the instrument with an enzymatic or disinfectant spray, foam or gel. The instrument can also be placed inside a container that will maintain humid conditions.

Pay close attention to sharp instruments and needles. Best practices state the needles shouldn't recapped or handled with both hands, and the needle point should always point away from the body, according to the Osteopathic Medical Board of California's guidelines. To dispose of syringes, needles, scalpel blades or other sharp objects, place the object in puncture-resistant containers. Puncture-resistant containers should be easily available at the site.

When a needles stick occurs, OSHA requires healthcare providers to log occupational injuries and illnesses. For transportation, OSHA requires a closed container or cart. The container should be leak proof and include a biohazard label.

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