Smoke in operating rooms? Nurses say NJ can help their health with new rule
TRENTON – Nurses hope New Jersey this fall will join the growing list of states with laws requiring hospitals and ambulatory care centers to have polices in place to evacuate surgical smoke from an operating room as soon as possible.
They say surgical smoke is like cigarette smoke and can causes health problems for patients and particularly medical staff who are in an operating room full-time.
Felix Rivera, an operating room nurse at Saint Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick, said evacuation equipment gets used in some surgeries but not all.
“The average daily impact of surgical smoke on the operating room team is equivalent to inhaling the smoke of 27 to 30 unfiltered cigarettes,” said Rivera, president of the New Jersey State Council of periOperative Registered Nurses.
Saint Peter’s has had the smoke evacuation devices since 2018.
Mary Ann Donahue-Ryan of the Organization of Nurse Leaders of New Jersey said more than 150 carcinogens can be inhaled during a surgery.
“The vast majority of operating rooms, maternity centers and same-day surgical centers are not using the correct devices to protect staff and their patients and lack specific guidelines and directives to remedy this situation,” Donahue-Ryan said.
Marie Costa, an operating room nurse for 53 years, said advanced medical technology such as lasers provides for faster and more accurate surgeries – but at a cost, as they emit a plume that can fill the operating room.
“I have known older surgeons and seasoned operating room nurses like myself who have developed asthma, bronchitis, lung cancer, leukemia and some have even died as a result of a lifetime career exposure to these toxins,” Costa said.
In around 10 states, lawmakers have begun hearings and votes on the proposal or governors have signed it into law.
The New Jersey version of the plan was endorsed by the Senate and Assembly health committees in June. The Assembly version was referred to the labor committee for another vote before it can reach the full Assembly.
The New Jersey State Council of periOperative Registered Nurses expects the bill will be approved when lawmakers return in the fall.
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