Break In Sterile Technique: Please Help!


I am a new OR nurse and still in my orientation. I recently made the unfortunate mistake of breaking sterility when setting up a case and not speaking up for my mistake. When opening a sterile package my hand touched it and it fell in the sterile basin. I know that maintaining my patient's safety is the most important responsibility I have as an OR RN and I honestly can't believe what I did. I haven't been able to think about anything else since. I'm so worried that my patient could develope a SSI because of me; that's the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing I think about before I fall asleep. I pray every night that my patient doesn't suffer because of my stupid and unethical mistake. I know 100% without a doubt that if I ever break sterility again, I'll speak up and help reopen anything necessary. I really don't know what to do about this though. I'm not sure if I should talk to my boss about my mistake and concerns or just keep praying for my patient and learn from my mistake. I never would have thought in a million years that I would've done this but I did and I have to live with that. I'm also wondering if hospitals undergo investigations with the staff if a patient gets a SSI or if in some way that hide cameras in ORs just for these types of situations.... I know that's a little paranoid but I feel really bad for what I did. Any advice? Thanks in advance.


3,413 Posts

Has 38 years experience.

I've only dabbled in OR. I am not a circulator nor a member of AORN. I feel safe in assuming your small error has no chance of causing a SSI. Of course you learned your lesson. Reporting the error when it happens is waaay less psychic pain than not reporting it and living with the guilt.

Maybe you should go to the Nursing Spcialties section of Allnurses, it has an Operating Room Nursing section, and ask there.

Editorial Team / Admin

Rose_Queen, BSN, MSN, RN

6 Articles; 11,442 Posts

Specializes in OR, Nursing Professional Development. Has 18 years experience.

Rather than repost, I've asked to have this moved to the OR forum.

OP, it would likely depend on what was contaminated, what else it touched, and why it was used for. It may not be a bad idea to mention it- depending on what happened, it may be that the infection control department will follow the patient. At the very least, if a major break in sterility (and use of a non-sterile supplybwould meet that), the wound class should have been adjusted accordingly.

Take this and learn from it- a surgical conscience and being able to speak up is a must. Don't wait for someone else to catch your mistakes- fix them yourself when you know you've made one.

Editorial Team / Admin


18 Articles; 30,667 Posts

Specializes in Education, FP, LNC, Forensics, ED, OB.

Thread moved to OR Nursing forum.