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Top 5 Reasons You Should Embrace AORN Guidelines

01.14.2021 • Industry News

Michelle Lemmons, RN, BSN, PHN, CNOR
Key Surgical Clinical Educator - OR

This may come as a surprise to you, but, AORN guidelines are wildly under-rated! Although we know what they are and how to find them, but holy moly do we underutilize them! There are many reasons why you should be following guidelines, but in terms of reducing your work load and improve mental focus here are the top 5:

1. Someone else has already done all the hard work! 

No perioperative professional has the time to stay up to date on the research coming out about
every piece of equipment they use in every case. Industry associations and regulatory bodies create
guidelines through full-time experts who seek out, consolidate, scrutinize, and summarize up to date
research and best practice evidence.Using this collected data, they provide guideline
recommendations that are easy to understand and implement. No need for a library card or hours
of coffee-stimulated reading to find a worthwhile article or research study, it is all laid out for you
with references provided! A great example is the updated AORN Electrosurgery guidelines. AORN’s
most recent guideline updates include “high quality evidence that supports the use of an anti-stick
phospholipid solution to reduce surgical time and decrease eschar buildup”.This significant update
can be easily implemented to reduce a common pain point in electrosurgery (constant buildup on
the electrode tip causing resistance to current and increased power needs) to improve OR

2. Guidelines help us effectively communicate

Guidelines aren’t policies (yet) but are well-researched, evidence-based suggestions. Wait, what? How does a suggestion help communication? Standardization! How many of you have at least one co-worker who struggles to speak up, even if they’re right? Or one who never stops speaking up, even if ill-informed? Guidelines are the perfect neutralizer; providing a non-personal, up-to-date reference to facilitate a conversation.Saying “…according to AORN 2020 guidelines” beats “I’ve always done it this way” Every. Time.

3. Guidelines help reduce ethical challenges

Ethical challenges can sneak up on us like a surprise party- suddenly there are bright lights, mild chaos, and we are stunned and speechless.  Guidelines review our license requirements such as the updated Nurse Practice Act and discuss potentially unconsidered situations that can result in ethical Challenges. Part of being a professional in healthcare means being able to ask yourself, “Am I letting my personal beliefs hinder my ability to provide the best care possible to this patient and their family?” and “How might this situation/procedure/intervention affect my patient given their personal information and/or quality of life?”  With proactive, non-personal education and recommendations you will not only be able to recognize potential ethical challenges but will also be equipped with the knowledge of how to respond. Win. win.

4. Guidelines are a one-stop shop

AORN guidelines are c.o.m.p.r.e.h.e.n.s.i.v.e. If you have ever thought “They don’t talk about that in guidelines,” think again. From product evaluation to teamwork, patient positioning to sterile processing they cover specific/ unique examples and suggestions to broad stroke “these apply to everyone” recommendations. In addition to the what/ why of current practice, guidelines also include conversations about what is being researched and what is coming next.

5. Guidelines support safety for patients, family members, and healthcare professionals

This is the most obvious reason, and that is because it is true. Guidelines exist to promote patient safety and the best possible surgical/procedural outcomes. They provide best practices, considerations, and recommendations to keep us all safe. Beyond that, industry associations provide well-rounded and represented recommendations through collaboration. For example, AORN collaborates with the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, the American College of Surgeons, the American Society of Anesthesiologists, the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, the International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materiel Management, the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, and the Surgical Infection Society. AORN reviews their guidelines using public comment, research, and best practice to ensure that guidelines are un-biased and relevant.

Whew! Are you convinced yet?! Pull out and dust off the guidelines, use them to evaluate your policies and practices, host team study groups, and get the ball rolling for successful practice in 2021! I urge you to think about how guidelines have improved your professional practice and use AORN guideline resources to reduce your work load and improve your mental focus.