Nurses at St. Mary’s Advocate for State Law to Eliminate Surgical Smoke in ORs

May 23 2024

Surgical smoke results from human tissue contact with mechanical tools and/or heat-producing devices. It can include 150 hazardous chemicals, 16 of which are on the EPA priority pollutant list. However, a team of OR nurses at Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital worked to not only eliminate surgical smoke from hospital ORs but also influenced a Virginia state bill to make it a standard across the state.

Janet Shortt, MHSA, BSN, RN, CNOR, Clin IV, Carla Beattie, RN, CNOR, Clin III, Laurie L. Dameron, BSN, RN, CNOR, Clin IV, Sheila Walker, BSN, RN, CNOR, Clin IV, Connie Marshall, BSN, RN, CNOR, Clin IV and Brittany Ozanski RN, Clin II are all champions for the elimination of hazardous smoke from surgical procedures to protect health care workers and patients. Together, they helped lead a team that successfully implemented the evidence-based practice of smoke evacuation as a standard of practice for all surgical procedures that create smoke plumes at St. Mary’s Hospital. In June of 2021, St. Mary’s was honored to receive the Go Clear Award™ Gold level recognition for its achievement in eliminating hazardous smoke from surgical procedures.

The group took their project to the next level when they partnered to push for legislation in the Commonwealth of Virginia to require all licensed hospitals and free-standing ambulatory surgical facilities to adopt and implement policies to use a smoke evacuation system for all surgical procedures that generate smoke. They received the support of the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) Government Affairs Associate Director Jennifer Pennock and worked closely with AORN, Virginia Nurses Association (VNA) and local delegates and legislators to promote the safety of patients and health care workers.

As president of the Richmond AORN chapter, Janet helped drive key steps in the process, including:

  • Inviting Garrison Coward (senior advisor, external affairs for Gov. Youngkin, Commonwealth of VA) and Arne Owens (director, Department of Health Professions of Virginia) to attend the AORN October 2023 chapter meeting to learn more about the hazards of surgical smoke.
  • Presenting at the Central Virginia VNA Legislative Advocacy Hour
  • Participating as a panelist on surgical smoke during the VNA Summit

Janet, Carla, Laurie and Sheila attended the VNA Lobby Day (a day to advocate for nurses and the nursing profession at the General Assembly) on this past January. They met with legislators and their aides to discuss 2024 nursing legislation and their personal stories as Virginia constituents and nurses.

Their persistent advocacy paid off. On March 28, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed the smoke evacuation bills – SB537 and HB 763 – into law, making Virginia the 17th state to go surgical smoke-free. St. Mary’s nurses are a part of Virginia legislative history!

Also, learn about the health care services we provide at Bon Secours.

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