Learning from the Leftovers: Repurposing OR Supplies


I hate waste. I’ll always take my leftovers from a restaurant. I have several bags of recycle out for pickup each week. But something I’ve seen more and more of is waste in the OR.


A few weeks ago, I shared a little commentary on LinkedIn about OR waste. Waste occurs for many reasons. Expired items, contamination, and canceled cases are just a few examples. And because I hate waste so much, I take those wasted items home with me in boxes each week. (Small disclaimer: I have permission to do this and none of the items from contaminated packs ever come in contact with patients) So what do I do with the mini OR I keep in my basement? Well, for one, I keep replenishing items I use for lectures and hands-on activities for my Peri-Operative Nursing elective. Students love the hands-on learning from the items I am able to use in class. But what about the items that I can’t use in class?


I’m fortunate to teach at a university that has a medical school, Saint Louis University (Go Bills!). A part of the medical school is the Practical Anatomy and Surgical Education Lab (PASE). So when I had accumulated enough items that I wasn't going to use for my classes, it only made sense that I would donate them to PASE. I dropped off 4 boxes and 2 bags filled with surgical supplies to the lab last week. I also set up a meeting with the event coordinator for a tour of the building.


Built in the 1800s, the lab is in the original building. Dr. Paul Young worked for the medical school in the late 1800s and the building is named after him. The original design has been restored. Beautiful hand drawn fleur-de-lis can be seen and the old wooden staircases are still intact. Within this building you will find a lecture hall with the capability to show dissections or procedures on screen. There is a simulation lab with high fidelity manikins providing the student hands-on opportunities to learn laparoscopic procedures and intubations. There is a lab with 30 individual stations for dissection or suture labs. Each station has its own tv screen to follow along with the instructor as well as a drop-down screen. Finally, there is a place for cadaver labs to occur for groups of students, residents, or other surgical team members. During my tour, trauma residents from the university hospital were doing labs. I was able to see their huge storage area where all my donations have been sorted out. There are multiple learning opportunities coming up this fall that a majority of my donations will be used for. Everyone needs gowns and gloves. Everyone needs sutures to practice with. Everyone can have their own set of laparoscopic instruments for practicing procedures! The donations allow the lab to spend money elsewhere, on other needed equipment and supplies, to help make these educational events a success for those who attend. It was great to get to see what’s being used and I look forward to continuing to help them provide surgical education for all!


For more information on the PASE lab at St. Louis University and to see what upcoming conferences are happening click here!



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