Operating theatre etiquette

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This article is a stub. Please feel free to expand it and make it more encyclopaedic.


Getting Changed

  • 'Scrubs': blues, greens
    • for perfectionists the 'correct' way to don scrubs is to put the top on first so that any hairs/dust disturbed falls away from clean clothes.
  • Theatre shoes
  • Hat of some description
  • Masks generally worn in actual operating theatre rather than the rest of the theatre complex. Some regard masks as unnecessary, with no adverse effects on infection. For scrubbed personnel they can be considered as personal protective equipment to prevent the transmission of blood borne viruses.

Other Preparations

During an Operation

The operating theatre environment can be a daunting place to the unfamiliar.

  • if not sterile/scrubbed avoid opened trays and drapes
  • avoid unnecessary movement (stirs up more dust and is distracting)

Although most theatres have an informal and easy-going atmosphere (which can be a little disconcerting at first), there are times where this will suddenly change. During difficult parts of the operation, you should

  • Avoid unnecessary noise
  • Interrupt only if absolutely necessary
  • Don't move the lights unless instructed to


  • 'Following' sutures
  • Retractors

Feeling faint


  • Adequate food and fluid before hand
  • Wiggle toes, shift weight from one foot to the other
  • Don't tie mask too tight

Let someone know. Better to be allow time to unscrub and leave the operating field for a glass of water and a sit-down than to unceremoniously collapse on the floor.

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