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Gina Ward
setting up sterile field for PICC line then leaving it


Hello ladies and gentleman,

I was called and asked a question by an Infection control  member.  They asked if I thought it ok to have some one, say a tech, go and set up our sterile tray and all supplies needed for a PICC line then cover it with a drape to be ready for when the inserter nurse arrives? I believe they are dealing with this issue at another facility and the I.F. people have some concern.

I have never done or been exposed to this.  My first answer would be no; because this is left un attended and who knows what is going on with it.  I also know that there is some kind of protocol in the OR where you can set something up , and in the event of a delay, it can be  used it later.  I asked our scrub techs and they said you can set up a sterile field and then if there is a delay you can monitor it and be sure it maintains sterility and then be used within 2 hours.

These procedures and the area where it is being set up ahead of time, is in the radiology area and or the ICU at bedside.

what is your input?   Thanks,  Gina Ward R.N, CPAN

When we first began PICC

When we first began PICC insertion in early 1980's, we would go with the patient to radiology to view the chest film. We would cover our sterile field with sterile towels and leave it in the room so we could finish the procedure when we returned from radiology. Many times, family members would not understand what this was and put personal items on top of it or move it somehow. For any sterile field to be considered sterile, I would say that is should be constantly monitored. I can not tell you what length of time would be the maximum before use, but I would definitely agree with the idea of constant monitoring. So if your tech is going to be present the whole time and not leave the room until the inserter gets there, it may work. But it would not work for the tech to set up, then leave for any period of time. Lynn

Lynn Hadaway, M.Ed., RN, BC, CRNI

Lynn Hadaway Associates, Inc.

126 Main Street, PO Box 10

Milner, GA 30257


Office Phone 770-358-7861

According to AORN

According to AORN (association of operating room nurses) standards, you may never leave your field unattended and you may not cover your sterile field as there is not a way to uncover and keep the field sterile.

Leigh Ann Bowegeddes
Setting Up Sterile Field for PICC line then leaving it

The AORN Evidence-based Standards do state that you do not walk away from your sterile field, you do not cover with sterile drapes (as you contaminate the field when you remove the drape), you set up the field at the time of use, and you set it up where it is to be used (do not set up a table and roll it into another area for use). Anyone in the room must have hair cover and mask on, and anyone within 12 inches of the sterile field must be sterilly garbed.
These standards are very good, and are well referenced. The book is expensive to purchase, but individual standards can be purchased from AORN. It may be advisable to purchase the standards that directly apply to the work we do, and use them for reference.

Leigh Ann Bowe-Geddes, RN, CRNI, VA-BC

University of Louisville Hospital Vascular Access Specialty Team

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