3 Physical Changes for a Calmer, Less Distracted OR



3 Physical Changes for a Calmer, Less Distracted OR

View from the ground looking into the sky through trees.

July 3, 2022


There is plenty of research out there to show how the physical healthcare environment can help the patient, but can the physical way an OR suite looks and sounds help OR team members, too?

Yes, according to research led by Rosemary Field, MS, APRN, AOCNS, at Cleveland Clinic. She and her colleagues investigated how perioperative team members were affected by working in an OR specially designed to create a tranquil patient experience.

They found that when a surgical case begins and ends with dim lighting, calming music and soothing nature scenes, the surgical team is not only calmer, but also more focused on the patient, quieter in their preoperative activities, and less distracted. From outside of the OR, the dim lighting also reduced unnecessary traffic from entering the surgical suite.

Their research poster from the study recently garnered top honors at AORN’s annual conference in April.

Despite the study being conducted in a specially designed OR suite, we asked Field if the physical environment in any OR can be modified to reap these calming benefits for staff.

“Absolutely,” she says, and suggests incorporating these three simple changes before induction and immediately after the procedure before the patient leaves the room:

  1. Dim OR Lighting

Facilities may already have this function, or a dimmer switch can be installed. In Field’s study, the lights were dimmed just enough to create a calming effect for patient entry until induction. For the surgery, the lighting was turned back up but again dimmed just before the patient left the room.

  1. Play Specifically Calming Music

For the music to create a calming effect, it needs to be instrumental with a consistent tempo of 60 beats per minute. Stick to only mild percussive sounds with no dramatic changes in loudness. Field describes the music as “spa-like.” When the lights are turned up after induction, the music also goes off for the duration of the procedure.

  1. Display Nature Scenes

Nature scenes specifically chosen for tranquil lighting and scenery were displayed on high-resolution screens in the patient’s line of sight prior to induction and after the procedure. The images were displayed again in coordination with lights dimmed and the calming music turned back on immediately after the procedure. For example, one scene depicts the ocean during sunset, and another image depicts a river set in the background of snow-capped mountains.

Field hopes more research can be done to identify this huge potential for improving perioperative staff members’ experiences in a more tranquil OR setting to reduce distraction, stress and burnout.

Consider submitting your own poster abstract for next year’s conference in San Antonio, Texas. The deadline is October 2, 2022.