The Principles of Aseptic Technique Including Practices in Specific Medical Settings

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In the Clinic

At the crux of the principles of aseptic technique is hand washing. Certainly, you may notice that the first thing your doctor does when entering the exam room is to wash her hands. Health care providers will wash their hands several times a day, including before and after a patient enters the clinic as well as before any type of medical procedure. They will use a antimicrobial soap and wash their hands vigorous sometimes for a clinic-defined period of time.

Because skin cannot be completely sterile, your doctor will wear gloves, especially during invasive procedures including blood draws. During these times, you are at a greater risk of infection. Likewise, you may notice that your doctor or nurse uses disposable covering for medical instruments such as thermometers in order to avoid contaminating the instruments themselves.

In the Surgery

Several factors increase your health risks when in surgery. First, the closed system of your body will likely be entered. Because of this, your doctor must take extra caution to avoid unsterile conditions. Second, your immune system is likely compromised by the stress of the surgical procedure as well as the condition what made surgery necessary.

In addition to practices in the clinic, health care providers will take measures to cover or hold back their hair. Facial hair will also be covered. The surgery team will create sterile areas with surgical drapes. These sterile items are opened and used quickly at the site where they are needed. All surgical instruments are sterilized or kept in sterile packaging until use.

Only properly-attired staff may be present in the surgery area and the sterile zone of the patient and surgery table through the entire procedure. Anything which could potentially contaminate this area is avoided, including contact with any unsterilized items. Any used materials are immediately discarded after use, following specific guidelines for disposal.

In the Laboratory

The principles of aseptic technique are just as important in the laboratory as the clinic or surgery. The goal is to prevent contamination of specimens for accurate testing and possible diagnosis. In the laboratory, technicians face the added risk of handling potentially biohazardous materials. Therefore, proper protection including face masks and protective clothing when necessary is essential.

All lab surfaces are sterilized before work begins. As in other setting, sterilization of all instruments and glassware is necessary. After testing, correct disposal of materials will ensure that possible contaminants do not leave the laboratory setting.

One of the most difficult yet vital aspects of working in the medical field is adhering to the strict guidelines for maintaining as sterile an environment as possible while minimizing the spread of anything which may be hazardous to human health. These basic principles vastly improve the safety of medical treatment.


Nurse Review: Aseptic Technique –

Potter, P. and Griffin Perry, A. Clinical Nursing Skills and Techniques. 1998.