The Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) created a toolkit about COVID-19 to inform and assist perioperative nurses during the pandemic.

“We knew there would be questions that needed answers. We wanted to anticipate what perioperative clinicians may ask and provide those answers in a timely manner,” says Erin Kyle, DNP, RN, CNOR, editor in chief, Guidelines for Perioperative Practice, AORN. “With so much misinformation and conflicting information coming from different sources, we knew that providing reliable information from reputable sources would be an imperative.”

When the toolkit was launched in mid-February, it served as a repository for news releases and situation updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“It also provided resources intended to inform clinicians who face shortages of supplies like surgical masks, gowns, and drapes,” Kyle says. “Before our board of directors made the difficult, but wise, decision to cancel our annual Global Conference and Expo, we used the toolkit to inform members and exhibitors about what precautions we and the expo venue were taking to keep them safe while attending the meeting. It now includes information that has become available from other societies and medical journals for the most up-to-date and reliable information about the spread of COVID-19 and how healthcare workers can protect themselves by selecting and using personal protective equipment [PPE] properly.”

For example, the toolkit provides a link to Nebraska Medicine’s Biocontainment Unit webpage, which includes resources written by national experts on communicable disease containment and treatment.

The toolkit also contains links to a Strategic National Stockpile fact sheet and information from the World Health Organization and the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology. This information would apply to any respiratory communicable disease.

“We hope that perioperative nurses use the resources we have assembled to inform interdisciplinary decisions about how to respond to COVID-19 in their communities and healthcare organizations,” Kyle says. “For example, places where the outbreak has led to municipalities declaring states of emergency, the response is different than those places where the outbreak has not yet reached. Specific patient populations may also require different responses within a healthcare organization. Those organizations whose services are focused on the most fragile and vulnerable to the disease may require different practices than those that serve less vulnerable populations.”

The toolkit provides resources for evidence-based decision-making at the facility level. Perioperative nurses will persevere and be leaders during these trying times, Kyle predicts.

“Perioperative RNs are known for their ability to remain calm under pressure, focusing all efforts on patient care,” she says. “We do this as part of an interdisciplinary team every day.” The toolkit recommends perioperative nurses lead the way in practicing common-sense prevention measures, as outlined by the CDC, including these:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after eating, blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing, or going to the bathroom.
  • Use hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol whenever soap and water are not available.
  • Stay home when sick.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and throw it in the trash.• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces with household cleaning agents.

Perioperative nurses and others in healthcare should follow the CDC’s recommendations regarding PPE use.

“Use only what you need for each patient,” Kyle says. “Plan ahead. Have a contingency plan for obtaining supplies from alternative vendors. Consider reusables when possible, and work with the materials management department to define this contingency plan before a shortage situation arises at your facility.”

The CDC offers information about PPE, including what standards to consider as well as best practices in using gowns, gloves, and respirators, such as an N95 filtering facepiece respirator.

The pandemic affects people in different ways, but it can be especially frightening to frontline medical staff because of the greater risk of infection. While this is understandable, it is important to learn more about COVID-19 to prevent panic. “Fear and panic are wasted energy,” Kyle says. “We, as healthcare professionals, should spend our energy seeking out reliable information and focusing on what we can do to protect ourselves, our communities, and our patients from the detrimental effects of this pandemic.”

Finally, the advice from AORN to perioperative nurses boils down a simple but powerful message: “Do what we do best: Remain calm, and take care of the problem,” Kyle adds.