Problem identification

The surgical count is an integral component of the perioperative nurse’s role designed to reduce the risk of unintentional retained items (URIs) during surgery. Current literature provides statistical data that URIs continue to occur which has exposed a lack of adherence to the surgical count process as a possible contributing factor. This review was undertaken to identify what is currently known about perioperative nurses’ practices in relation to the surgical count and the perceived barriers and enablers when trying to follow best practice as outlined in ACORN’s Standards for Perioperative Nursing in Australia.

Literature search

The objective of the search was to identify empirical data relating to nurses’ knowledge and practices in relation to the surgical count. We identified 215 research papers in the literature search using search terms consisting of instrument counts, culture and patient safety.

Data evaluation synthesis

Studies from 2003 to 2018 were categorised methodologically as qualitative, quantitative and mixed methodologies. All papers were reviewed by the authors separately to extract key information around design, sample size, aim, key findings and limitations. Studies were critically appraised using the mixed method appraisal tool (MMAT) for mixed method studies and the QualSyst tool for quantitative and qualitative studies. The literature search identified a total of 215 studies, 109 of which were identified for further review using the ‘preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analysis’ (PRISMA) flow chart. Six exclusion criteria were applied to exclude a further 52 articles from the final review, which resulted in ten articles being included in the final sample.

Implications for practice or research

The review demonstrates that statistical data around URIs is widely reported. However, little is documented about the patient, case, individual and environmental factors that may impede perioperative nurses in following best practice when undertaking a surgical count.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.