Occupational exposures in the operating room: Are surgeons well-equipped?

2021-07-02

Background: Occupational health hazards are ubiquitously found in the operating room, guaranteeing an inevitable risk of exposure to the surgeon. Although provisions on occupational health and safety in healthcare exist, they do not address non-traditional hazards found in the operating room. In order to determine whether surgeons or trainees receive any form of occupational health training, we examine the associations between occupational health training and exposure rate. Study design: A cross-sectional survey was distributed. Respondent characteristics included academic level, race/ethnicity, and gender. The survey evaluated seven surgical disciplines and 13 occupational hazards. Multivariable logistic regression was used to examine the association between academic level, surgical specialty, and exposure rate.

Results: Our cohort of 183 respondents (33.1% response rate) consisted of attendings (n = 72, 39.3%) and trainees (n = 111, 60.7%). Surgical trainees were less likely to have been trained in cytotoxic drugs (OR 0.22, p<0.001), methylmethacrylate (OR 0.15, p<0.001), patient lifting (OR 0.43, p = 0.009), radiation (OR 0.40, p = 0.007), and surgical smoke (OR 0.41, p = 0.041) than attending surgeons. Additionally, trainees were more likely to experience frequent exposure to bloodborne pathogens (OR 5.26, p<0.001), methylmethacrylate (OR 2.86, p<0.001), cytotoxic drugs (OR 3.03, p<0.001), and formaldehyde (2.08, p = 0.011), to name a few.

Conclusion: Although surgeon safety is not a domain in residency training, standardized efforts to educate and change the culture of safety in residency programs is warranted. Our study demonstrates a disparity between trainees and attendings with a recommendation to provide formal training to trainees independent of their anticipated risk of exposure.

Authors: Wilmina N Landford, Ledibabari M Ngaage, Erica Lee, Yvonne Rasko, Robin Yang, Sheri Slezak, Richard Redett
; Full Source: PloS one 2021 Jul 2;16(7):e0253785. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0253785.