Hand-washing Tips for STs

Surgical Scrubbing Hands and Arms

All of Concorde’s Surgical Technologist students learn early on in their programs that one of the most vital tasks any good ST assumes during a surgery is ensuring the maintenance of a sterile operating field. A key component of keeping everything clean and sterile is proper hand washing. Indeed, proper hand washing is something good surgical tech programs take very seriously. As Martin Davis, CST, MBA, Surgical Technologist Program Director at Concorde’s campus in Grand Prairie, Texas, said, “Proper hand washing is not something that we do because we are Surgical Technicians. We teach this as a way of life.”

Hand hygiene as a way to prevent spreading of bacteria and viruses

Hand hygiene is the most important way to prevent spreading bacteria and viruses, according to Davis. And, no matter the ingredients in hand rubs, such as alcohol rubs we all have on our desks, in classrooms or hanging on the walls, nothing beats soap and water. Davis said the best technique is to clean the fingernails with a nail cleaner under running water, followed by a hand wash with soap and water. Beginning with the finger nails and working the hands down past the wrists is the proper order, he said. “Sing the ABCs twice while washing allows for appropriate time to ensure proper cleansing,” he said. “The dirtiest parts of the hands also are the easiest to miss while washing. Therefore, pay special attention to fingernails and the web spaces between the fingers.” Davis cautions not to use the hands when turning off the sink. The faucet is the first thing touched with the hands before cleaning so are contaminated. Leave the water running and grab a paper towel to turn the water off. “Skin cannot be sterilized, so we do the next best thing leaving our hands surgically clean,” Davis said.

Other hand-washing tips for the Surgical Technologist

Marsha Buchanan, ST Program Director at Concorde’s campus in San Bernardino, Calif., offered her useful quick tips for cleaning the hands.
  • Check the integrity of your nails, fingers, hands and arms. Look for any tissue that might be open due to a cut, scrape or scratch.
  • Test the water temperature.
  • Wet your hands and arms with running water, turn off the tap and apply soap.
  • Lather hands and back of hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to rub fingers by interlocking them as you wash.
  • Scrub hands for at least 20 seconds (or, sing Happy Birthday twice).
  • Rinse hands under running water; let soap go toward the fingertips.
  • Dry hands using a clean cotton towel or paper towel.
Buchanan also provided tips on when the Surgical Technologist should wash hands.
  • Every time you touch or move a patient.
  • After removing gloves (sterile or exam).
  • Before and after eating.
  • After using the bathroom.
  • After using tissue for your face.
  • Following turning over a dirty room.
  • After taking out trash from surgical room.
  • Before you come back to open a surgical room.
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