The Sales Rep in the OR

It's hard to determine which came first; blog posts or newspaper articles about sales reps in operating rooms.

Newspapers and blogs examine this practice.

It's hard to determine what came first; blog posts or newspaper articles about sales reps in operating rooms (ORs). In any case, this practice has generated a great deal of discussion and controversy. The rationale for having a sales rep in the OR is that the sales rep presumably has detailed knowledge about his or her product and can direct or assist the surgeon during the operative procedure. It's logical to ask why the surgeon is not trained or educated about a new product or device before using it in the OR for the first time, but perhaps the surgeon has reviewed printed information or maybe even viewed a video or live procedure. Actually using a product or device is something else entirely, and is the reason that the sales rep is in the OR.

While supporters of sales reps in the OR say that these device and product "experts" help ensure safety in the OR, others say that a lack of a formal medical education may compromise patient safety. There is also concern about conflict of interest since the sales rep's job is to sell a product or device, not provide patient care. I would guess that patients may not even be aware that a sales rep is in the OR. And I would have to wonder if the surgeon considers what level of knowledge the sale rep actually has before allowing the rep "to assist."

It would be interesting to survey patients' perspectives on having a sales rep in the OR during their operative procedures, especially elective procedures. I would think many would question the need to have a sales rep in the OR and would want to know exactly what they would be doing. I know that if it was me, I would probably wait until the surgeon had more experience with the product or device under his or her belt until I went under the knife. As an RN, however, I also know that every new product or device is used for the first time, somewhere, someplace. So someone has to be first, and in a sense practiced on. My preference would be to wait (if circumstances permitted) until the surgeon felt comfortable enough to use the device or product without a sales rep in the room.