Brenda Ulmer, MN, RN, CNOR, and Angela Hohn, RN, BSN, BS, CNOR, have accomplished so much together that it’s almost impossible to believe that the two veteran perioperative nurses still have yet to meet in person. Their close virtual partnership — in conjunction with a team of similarly dedicated nurses, techs and surgeons — continues as part of what is now a multiyear effort to pass legislation in the state of Georgia that mandates the use of smoke evacuation systems in ORs. They’ll speak together at Virtual OR Excellence to describe what has gone into their unwavering, multipronged effort to make ORs safer for all of their colleagues in the Peach State. Their hope is that surgical professionals in other states with similar aspirations will be able to take some inspiration, knowledge and wisdom from their story to bolster and activate their own efforts.
In February 2020, Ms. Hohn, a perioperative nurse in the Atlanta VA Health Care System, was told she had stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer. The devastating diagnosis, which she and her trusted primary care physician believe was likely caused by decades of exposure to surgical smoke, sent Ms. Hohn on a personal crusade to rid ORs of dangerous plume.
After learning about AORN’s Go Clear program, a national effort to rid ORs of surgical smoke for good, she eventually teamed up with Ms. Ulmer, a veteran perioperative nurse educator, past president of AORN and longtime advocate of surgical smoke safety. Together with other members of what became a statewide Georgia smoke evacuation team, they embarked on a lobbying effort to get a bill introduced and passed. Ms. Hohn, in the midst of her recovery, testified before the Georgia Senate via Zoom about her personal experience, capturing the kind of rapt attention, comprehension and empathy from the Senate committee needed to gain more support for the bill. The Georgia smoke team’s effort was the subject of Outpatient Surgery Magazine’s March 2021 cover story.