Teach Me Tuesdays : Medical Asepsis vs Surgical Asepsis

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Two of the most commonly confused terms in nursing fundamentals are medical asepsis and surgical asepsis. It is important to tell the two apart. One we considered “clean”, the other we considered “sterile”, or completely free of pathogens.

Medical Asepsis

Many medical situations call for medical asepsis. All medical encounters call for at least medical asepsis. It is also known as “clean technique”. In the event that we come in contact with the patient, we have a less likelihood of transferring microbes because we have removed most of the microbes.

The number one means of creating Medical Asepsis is handwashing.

The number one means of creating medical asepsis is handwashing! Click To Tweet

Surgical Asepsis

Surgical Asepsis is used in procedures in which the body cavity will be open or exposed to pathogens. This includes dressing changes, surgical procedures, or catheterizations.

The main difference in Surgical Asepsis, in contrast to medical asepsis, is that it eliminates all microbes from potentially entering the body. This is done with special positioning, equipment, and procedures.

chain of infection

Chain of Infection

An important concept to understand when it comes to medical asepsis and surgical asepsis is the chain of infection. In order to prevent infection, there needs to be a break somewhere in the chain.

  • Infectious Agent: This could be any kind of pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, or fungi.
  • Reservoir: A reservoir could include people, animals, equipment or surfaces, and water. In fact, people are the perfect environment (warm, dark, moist) for harboring bacteria.
  • Portal of Exit: The body offers a variety of portals of exit for microbes. This includes the respiratory tract, the genitourinary tract, the gastrointestinal tract, the skin, and the mucous membranes.
  • Modes of Transmission: The three modes of transmission include contact, airborne, and droplet.
  • Portal of Entry: The portals of entry into the body are the same as those of exit. They include the respiratory tract, the genitourinary tract, the gastrointestinal tract, the skin, and the mucous membranes.
  • Susceptible Host: When thinking of a susceptible host we need to consider any patients who have a compromised or weakened immune system, and patients whose bodies are already using resources to combat other diseases. This includes cancer patients, surgical patients, burn patients, newborns, geriatric patients, and patients with metabolic conditions such as Diabetes Mellitus.

If we break the chain of infection by, for example isolating patients with airborne or droplet precautions or sterilizing equipment, we are preventing the transfer of microbes.

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Writer at Nurse Ghastly
Nurse Ghastly is a paranormal historian with a focus in urban legend. She believes in respecting the past and studying ghostly phenomenon through the history that created it. She is a firefighter and NREMT certified as well as a nursing student who provides study material for those starting their nursing journey.
Follow Me at

nurseghastly

Nurse Ghastly is a paranormal historian with a focus in urban legend. She believes in respecting the past and studying ghostly phenomenon through the history that created it. She is a firefighter and NREMT certified as well as a nursing student who provides study material for those starting their nursing journey.