January 2021 • Volume 15, No. 1

From the Editor

Operating room fires are rare, although experts differ in quantifying just how rare they are.*

But authorities agree that OR fires tend to happen very fast and can be devastating. Although a fire-safety risk assessment is part of the time-out that most surgical teams practice, how well do you really understand the potential for fire in your OR and what you can do to prevent it?

This issue’s topic was inspired by an article published this month by the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Practicing Fire Safety in the Operating Room, by Edward Jones, MD, MS. I recommend this article: it’s a succinct, current survey of the topic, touching on the role of the Bovie, choice of prep solution, and which types of surgery are at particularly high risk for fire.

Our Student in the Spotlight is Adriana Southworth, DNP from Carlsbad, CA.

Scroll down for jobs we’ve collected for you and NIFA’s favorite links.


Julie Lancaster, Editor

* Many websites quote the figure of 550-650 OR fires per year, but that figure is based on a 2009 study. ECRI, a federally certified Patient Safety Organization whose 2009 figures were quoted by the FDA, says the current number is 90-100 per year. There seems to have been a significant drop in incidence of fires in the OR over the last decade; for example, see this infographic based on Pennsylvania data. However, Edward Jones, MD, MS., an expert we reference in this issue, believes the national number is “at least 650.”


Fire photo by Max Kukurudziak on Unsplash

Other News: Surgical Smoke

Two new studies led by researchers at the University of Illinois-Chicago have been published about surgical smoke.

Surgical smoke can obscure vision, cause respiratory issues and may contain toxic chemicals, bacteria and viruses. Passing legislation so that states require better smoke evacuation may hold the key to improving the situation.

Science Daily has published a short synopsis of both papers. Read synopsis…

Or read the abstracts (free) or full papers (subscription or pay for one-time access) of the two articles:

  • State of the Science: A Concept Analysis of Surgical Smoke (AORN Journal, Dec 30, 2020)Read article…”
  • Empowering Nurse Executives to Advocate for Surgical Smoke–Free Operating Rooms (Nurse Leader, Nov 20, 2020)Read article…
Surgical smoke photo by Shutterstock

Fire Safety

As you probably learned back in science class, the three components needed for fire are fuel, an oxidizer (usually oxygen), and a source of ignition. To the right is a graphic from the FDA showing which items in the OR fall into each of these three categories.

As mentioned in the Letter from the Editor, above, we recommend this short and informative article by Edward Jones, MD, MS: Practicing Fire Safety in the Operating Room. Read article…

For a more academic look at the topic, see Operating Room Fires, published in March 2020 and available on PubMed.gov. Dr. Jones was one of the authors, along with Teresa S Jones, Ian H Black and Thomas N Robinson. Read article…

Other pertinent articles:

Flammability of Surgical Drapes and Materials in Varying Concentrations of Oxygen, by William C Culp Jr, Bradly A Kimbrough and Sarah Luna (Oct. 2013). Read article…

Fire in the Operating Room During Open Heart Surgery: A Case Report, by Michael Moskowitz (Aug. 2009). Read article…

Only YOU Can Prevent Surgical Fires, by Stephanie B. Jones, MD; Daniel B. Jones, MD, MS; and Steven Schwaitzberg, MD. Read article…

And see AORN’s Fire Safety Tool Kit containing 12 fire drill scenarios
Get Tool Kit…


Prevention and Management of Operating Room Fires, from the Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation. Watch video…
National Fire Protection Association educational video (3 min). Watch video…
Time Out. Video from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center showing a time-out for cases with potential for fire (2 min). Watch video…

Student Spotlight: Adriana Southworth


Student Status
Current student in NIFA’s RNFA program

City & State
Carlsbad, CA

Current Position
Nurse Practitioner for Vascular Surgery; Scripps Medical Group, La Jolla, CA

Where did you get your RN degree? 
University of Arizona

How did you come to choose perioperative nursing?
Post-grad, to help surgeon

What is one technique or RNFA trick you’ve learned from NIFA that you will use for life?
Be prepared.

How do you feel having your RNFA will impact your life/career?
Having new knowledge and skills will make me more marketable.

Jobs Front

Click here for the RNFA job postings we’ve collected for you this month.

NIFA – Office Hours

Monday-Thursday, 8:00am – 4:00pm
Friday, 8:00am – 3:00pm

Practice Resources

Here are several of the most-in-demand sites for our students, prospective students and grads:

MD Edge Surgery News: Specialty News and Commentaries, Videos and More
RNFA Scope of Practice by State (PDF)
ACS List of Cases that Require an Assistant at Surgery, 2020 (PDF)
Perioperative Nurse Links (state nursing boards & professional associations)
APRN Nurse Links

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this newsletter are strictly those of their respective authors and do not necessarily represent the views of NIFA. NIFA does not give any express or implied warranty as to the accuracy of statements made by our contributors and does not accept any liability for error or omission. It is the responsibility of all perioperative personnel to work within and adhere to their facility bylaws and individual scope of practice.

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