Over the last year, we have all become accustomed to shifting our attention away from some aspects of our home and work life, including protecting the environment (hard to say but it’s true!), to focus and adapt to the pandemic. Prior to COVID-19, the outstanding TGH OR Green Team was a leader in implementing sustainable solutions within their department. As an example, the team has made the environment their forefront by making it a standard in purchasing for all items to come in packaging that can be recycled!

To this day, they continue to be an environmental leader, but to address the outcomes that the pandemic brought upon them, scaling back on the sustainability side of things was only necessary. As cases continue to drop in the recent days, the team is ready to get back on track and re-advertise their Stryker repurposing program as a recent safety incident reminds us of not only the environmental benefits of reusing but also the safety benefits.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Julie Yip, a Patient Care Coordinator at TGH and an OR Green Team member, about the safety incident that kickstarted the restart of the Stryker reuse program.

To get an understanding of the incident that transpired in the OR, Julie explained from her perspective of what happened. At the end of the day, the incident was brought to her attention by our housekeeping staff, through pictures, that there were a couple instances of laparoscopic devices protruding from black garbage bags.

According to Julie, this is a huge safety concern for everyone but mainly the housekeeping staff as they are the ones who come into the OR post case and collect the bags and tie them up for disposal. But a safe environment is a must for everyone, from patients to UHN staff, and anyone else that could have come entered the OR and not seen the protruding sharps.

To best be able to tackle the problem, the cause of the situation was addressed and what was discovered was that residents have been trying to help around the OR and clean up post case. Due to their constant moving around between departments, they weren’t aware that nurses are to clean up post case. Thus, they didn’t know of the disposal practices in this particular space. The incident occurred purely out of kindness as an act of helping but to ensure proper disposal in the future, nurses are the only ones cleaning up post case.

Now, the great thing about this story is being able to remind everyone of the amazing laparoscopic instrument recycling program that was started at the end of 2019! When used, it prevents any of the instruments from entering the garbage bags again and bonus, they can be repurposed and diverted from landfill. It takes quite a bit of energy and resource extraction to make these instruments from the plastic piece to the metal piece. Metals need to be extracted, plastic needs to be produced, all requiring energy which releases greenhouse gases into our atmosphere! So when we repurpose them, we are diverting what once would have been single-use and giving them another life while reducing the need to produce more.

Julie emphasized that the Stryker reuse program was first introduced into the OR’s by the amazing work of Dr. Laura Donahoe, Marcus George, and Lisa Vanlint who worked together to ensure its success.

“It’s important to have teamwork between the Energy & Environment team, the OR nurses, and the OR attendants to ensure the program can run smoothly and effectively.”

Julie Yip

From the perspective of Julie, the program works by having a cooperative team consisting of OR nurses and the OR attendants. At the end of a case, to limit the guess work by nurses as to which devices can and cannot be recycled, all laparoscopic instruments are gathered and put on the bottom of the case cart. The OR attendant at the end of the day will then bring the cart to the R64 Sharps container to leave for the Stryker company to come and collect and determine themselves what can and cannot be reprocessed.

“Recycling is so important to the OR staff, no one wants to see a pile of trash. The Stryker program brings comfort to members to know they are keeping the patients safe but also the earth.”

Julie Yip

This quote from Julie is an accurate representation to how the OR staff feel in regard to the program. They are aware of the impact repurposing has on the environment as they see the amount of instruments that are used and are determined to work together to do their part in creating a healthier world. To give you all a better understanding on the impact of this program, as we don’t get to see how many instruments get repurposed, Julie expects that approximately 1,000 instruments are used yearly, which is about 1 per case. Thats 1,000 instruments that can be diverted from landfill and repurposed!

So what actions were taken to prevent this mistake again? Julie explains how she sent an email to all nurses and displayed on the news board (a television that is visible to all members of the team), the photos shown above to clearly display what happened and the steps of repossessing the instruments! To further highlight the program, posters were posted on all the rooms to explain how to process them.

“This near miss turned into a positive and can now be used to highlight the importance of the program and kickstart it as covid calms down.”

Julie Yip

Understandably, due to COVID-19, attention shifted away from the Stryker program and towards the pandemic. But, as a silver-lining, this incident has reminded us of the Stryker program and the importance it plays in keeping the OR’s safe and sustainable!

I would like to thank Julie for taking time out of her busy day to speak to me earlier about this program! If you are interested to further learn what our spectacular OR Green Team is doing to stay sustainable, keep your eyes pealed on our Green Wall of Fame!