Introduction: Wrapping Surgical Tools for the Autoclave
I love the Christmas season. You get to spend time with family and receive presents! Who knew I could bring part of the Christmas festivities into my everyday job. I am talking about wrapping objects but I am not wrapping a toy, I am wrapping surgical instruments. It is so important to properly wrap surgical instruments so the autoclave can sterilize them for the next patient. Think of the autoclave as a pressure cooker. It provides enough pressure and steam to kill pathogens on the tools. It is important to do this process as we reuse a lot of the tools and want to prevent cross-contamination. Let’s learn how to wrap the surgical tools the right way.
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Step 1: What We Need
Wrapping surgical instruments may take a few tries until the package is perfectly wrapped. The steps are very simple but first, this requires special autoclaving paper, the dirty surgical tools (tweezers, scalpel, etc.), indicator card, and indicator tape. In a real-life situation, we would want to put latex/sterile gloves on just to protect ourselves. I use gauze when we have sharp or pointy tools to cover the end of the tool so it does not poke through the paper.
Step 2: The Autoclave Paper
Let’s start by laying down the autoclave paper. The paper is precut into a square. Turn the squared paper so it looks like a diamond. This step is important to help make sure the right order of folding takes place.
Step 3: The Indicator Card
At this time, take the indicator card. Fill out the card with today’s date. This allows healthcare workers to know the day it was placed in the autoclave. The card should also include the initials of the person wrapping the package. Once the package has been through the autoclave, the color on the indicator card will change to show that the tools are sterile.
Step 4: Laying Out the Tools
Lay the surgical tools in the middle of the autoclave paper.
The indicator card needs to be included with the tools. Space the tools out so they are not lying on top of one another. At this time, if there are any sharp or pointy tools such as sharp tweezers or scissors. Take a piece of gauze and lay it under the tip of the pointy tool. Then fold it over to the top so the points are not exposed.
Step 5: First Fold
To begin the folding process, take the corner that is on the bottom and pull up over the tools. Don't pull way over the tools or the package will become too loose.
Step 6: First Tab
On the corner that was just folded, take the point of that corner and fold it down to create a tab. The tab is needed for when opening up the package to keep the items sterile.
Step 7: Second Fold
Remember the paper is laid out in the shape of a diamond. Grab the left corner and fold it across to the right side. The goal is to get the package snug but not too tight otherwise the steam and pressure can’t flow through the paper and sterilize the tools. The folding can start on either side but for tutorial purposes, I started with the left side.
Step 8: Second Tab
Just like the last fold, make a tab by folding the tip of the corner back. Again, this helps when opening the package to keep the tools sterile.
Step 9: Third Fold
Repeat step seven but do the opposite for the right side.
Step 10: Third Tab
Don't forget to tab. I can't stress it enough.
Step 11: Final Folds
All that is left to fold should be the top corner. By now the tools are covered up by the other folds. Take the top corner and fold over the package.
In the image, I did fold from the bottom due to wrapping such small instruments. I want to keep them snug.
Step 12: Continue Final Fold
Now wrap the top over. This may wrap around to the backside of the package. It should now look like an envelope. Do NOT make a tab with the corner.
Step 13: Indicator Tape Placement
Finally, instead of making a tab, grab the indicator tape and tape down the corner that was just folded. Make sure it is taped down securely so it does not become loose while in the autoclave.
Step 14: Filling Out the Indicator Tape
On the tape fill out the same information that was filled out on the indicator card but add what is inside of the package to the tape as well.
Step 15: Conclusion
This skill is meant for medical professional use so it is not commonly used in the household. By following the steps closely, the tools will surely become sterile. If the package is too tight the steam and pressure can’t reach the tools leaving them unsterile. You will then carry the package flat and place it in the autoclave. Depending on the type of autoclave you will start it and when finished we crack the door just slightly to let the steam out and allowing the packages to dry completely. Once dry it is moved to a sterile shelf and remains sterile for 30 days until it needs to go through the whole process again. Wrapping for the autoclave can be found in clinics, hospitals, and even dentist offices. Coming across this in everyday life is rare but, it makes good practice for those Christmas presents this year.
Enjoy the video as I talk through the steps and demonstrate how it is done.