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The Benefits of Medical Device Representatives in the Operating Room

Who is allowed in the OR during a surgical procedure?

Many individuals are involved in the operating room during a surgical procedure. Not only are anesthesiologists, surgeons, physician assistants, nurses, and technicians involved, but in some cases a medical device representative may be present. Many surgeries, especially orthopedic, trauma and cardiovascular, require insertion of manufactured devices or artificial joints, instruments or hardware that are supported by a company representatives.

How can a medical sales representative be beneficial in the OR?

Just as physician specialists are the experts in their medical field, the medical device sales representative is the expert on their product(s). A sales representative may need to set up product trays with instruments or procure a device for delivery to the OR before the procedure. They may also need to anticipate the need for alternative sizes, instruments, and components, and they bring these additional items with them to the surgical suite.

The representative’s attention to the specific details of the medical device and specialized experience makes procedures safer and more efficient for patients. They act as an extra safety net in the OR as they can quickly troubleshoot a complication or problem with the device or implant. They are the resource for any questions related to the specifications and nuances of their product.  

What do the ACS guidelines say about medical sales representatives in the OR?

The American College of Surgeons and the American Medical Association recognize the need for surgeons’ assistance with devices and new technologies, and have developed guidelines for optimal patient outcomes. These guidelines include the direction for surgeon training on the device prior to use. The sales representative or their company provides and supports this training on the application of the device or technology with the surgeon. The presence of the representative is in no way a substitute for physician education on the use of the device or equipment. They are a resource to the surgeon, and present in the OR, but they do not have any direct patient contact.

What training does a sales representative go through prior to being in the OR?

The sales representatives go through rigorous training from their employers to cover not only the device they represent, but also patient confidentiality, surgical asepsis, and more. As a de facto surgical team member, the device representative must demonstrate the same ethical duty of care for the patient as everyone else on the surgical team. They have to document their compliance to facility standards for health and safety and complete requirements such as review of facility policies and procedures before they are even allowed into the surgical suite.

What is the relationship between a surgeon and their sales representative?

Surgeons and device representatives have a unique working relationship. Not only is product support provided during a procedure, but ongoing training or educational opportunities are also made available. The surgeon makes the decisions and performs the procedure, but the added support from the sales representative may provide an additional indirect bonus to support care delivery. 

For more information on a suite of innovative surgical products used in the OR, please visit

Susan has 30+ years of clinical experience across the continuum of care. Her experience includes direct patient care in critical care and wound care. She has demonstrated clinical and sales leadership roles with wound management organizations such as Healogics, and industry experience with companies such as HealthPoint. Her broad experience from bedside to innovation and industry has provided a unique perspective that she has shared as a consultant and educator. She has been actively involved with the Wound, Ostomy, Continence Society and has many years of service on the board of directors for the Association for the Advancement of Wound Care, and the American Board of Wound Management of which she also served as President. She is currently vice-chair for the American Board of Wound Management Foundation.

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