Operational Medicine Medical Education and Training

Introduction to the Operating Room





A patient scheduled for surgery will have his operation performed by specially trained personnel working in a highly specialized area of the hospital. This area--the operating room (OR) suite--has an environment suited to its needs, but one quite different from that in the rest of the hospital.

All activities in the OR suite are centered around the best possible care of the patient.

The purpose of this subcourse is to familiarize you with certain aspects of the OR environment that will provide you with a basis for understanding your role as an OR specialist and enable you to enhance the performance of duties assigned to you in the care of the patient.


Length: 140 Pages

Estimated Hours to Complete: 10

Format: PDF file

Size: 2.3 MB


Anyone may take this course. However, to receive credit hours, you must be officially enrolled and complete an examination furnished by the Nonresident Instruction Branch at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Enrollment is normally limited to Department of Defense personnel. Others may apply for enrollment, but acceptance is not guaranteed.

Operating Room Set Up

Introduction to the Operating Room

Distance Learning Course
140 Pages
Est. 10 Hours
2.3 MB pdf file

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1 Orientation

Section I. Introduction

Section II. The Operating Room Suite

Section III. Furniture and Equipment

Section IV. Aseptic Technique/Infection Control 

Section V. Orientation to an Individual Operating Room

Section VI. Housekeeping

2 Operating Room Personnel, Policies, And Nomenclature

Section I. Surgical Nomenclature

Section II. The Operating Room Team

Section III. Attributes Necessary in Team Members

Section IV. Policies and Information on File

Section V. Selected Forms Used in the Operating Room

3 Safety In The Operating Room

Section I. Introduction

Section II. Explosion and Fire Hazards

Section III. Hazards Other Than Fires and Explosions






1-1. SCOPE

This subcourse deals with various aspects of the operating room (OR) environment, focusing particularly on the physical environment, aseptic technique, surgical nomenclature, responsibilities of personnel, operating room team, ethics, certain policies, and safety measures. The OR specialist should have a full appreciation of these matters in order to understand departmental rules and policies and to know how his important role in the OR contributes to safe and effective patient care.


The purpose of this subcourse is to assist the OR specialist in gaining or renewing an understanding of the area in which he is assigned and an appreciation of the strict discipline under which members of the OR team work in their unceasing effort to render the best possible care to the patients entrusted to them. Accordingly, this text is directed toward the OR specialist.


An OR specialist may be assigned to any one of a variety of Army hospitals in the United States (US) or in a foreign country. The mobility of an Army hospital determines in part the amount of supplies and type of equipment it uses. This in turn may affect the manner in which the OR specialist applies various medical procedures.

NOTE: Mobility refers to the ability of a unit to move both personnel and equipment from one location to another, using its own transportation. A fixed unit is one that cannot change locations because the structures housing it are of a permanent type.

a. Mobility. Some Army hospitals are more mobile than others. For example, a combat support hospital (CSH) (see figures 1-1 and 1-2) utilizes medical unit self-contained transportable (MUST) equipment and modular structures. The basic CSH can be transported to a new location in four loads. On the other hand, a general hospital is fixed.

b. Supplies and Equipment. Fixed hospitals are capable of storing bulky and heavy supplies whereas mobile hospitals have a limited storage capacity. In addition, the equipment used in a CSH and many other mobile table of organization and equipment (TOE) medical units is characteristic of the compact, lightweight, and portable type, but it is usually quite similar in both appearance and operation to the equipment used in permanent (fixed) type hospitals.

c. Guidance by Supervisor. The OR specialist may find that a smaller variety of items, both supplies and equipment, are available in a mobile medical unit than in a fixed medical unit. This factor of having less supplies and equipment to work within certain hospitals indicates that the OR specialist may need to make adjustments in the method of performing some of his assigned duties. In some instances, he may need to improvise, as prescribed by his supervisor, in order to perform certain procedures. Furthermore, the type of improvisation required may vary from one hospital to another, depending upon the type of equipment that is available at a given time.

(1) Operating room supervisors and surgeons frequently prescribe the policy to be followed by personnel under their supervision.

(2) Therefore, in this and other subcourses related to the OR. specialist, principles and safeguards are stressed. Methods and techniques are discussed for the benefit of those specialists assigned to hospitals and other medical units where standing operating procedures (SOP) have not been developed or are incomplete.



The use of the term "operating room" requires clarification. The entire area in which surgical operations are performed and materials are prepared and stored for surgery is properly called the operating room suite or the surgical suite. However, hospital personnel often describe the entire suite simply as the "operating room" (OR). Examples of such usage are: "OR specialist," "OR nurse," and "OR supervisor"--all of whom have duties throughout the surgical suite. Of course, "operating room" and "OR" are also used to indicate an individual OR in which surgery is performed. Throughout this subcourse, these terms "operating room suite" and "surgical suite" are used when referring to the entire area in which operations are performed and supplies are prepared and/or stored. Terms such as "OR specialist," "OR supervisor," and "OR personnel" are in general use and are understood by all hospital personnel as referring to persons assigned to the OR suite. The terms "operating room" and "individual operating room" are used to designate a room within the surgical suite where surgery is performed on a patient.

From Introduction to the Operating Room



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