How to Open a Sterile Package

Nursing Knowledge

How to Open a Sterile Package

Opening a sterile package correctly is a critical skill in nursing, essential for maintaining a sterile environment and therefore reducing the risk of healthcare-associated infections. Sterile packages contain medical supplies that have been specially processed to be free from microorganisms, making them safe for use in sterile procedures.
Last updated: December 4, 2023

Table of contents

What is a sterile package? 

A sterile package is a sealed container that holds medical supplies or instruments that have been sterilized to be free from microorganisms. The package itself is also sterilized and sealed in a manner that maintains the sterility of its contents until it is opened. 

What are sterile packages used for? 

Sterile packages are used for any procedures that require a sterile environment (e.g. surgeries, wound dressings, catheter insertions). The main goal of using sterile packages is preventing contamination and minimizing the risk of healthcare-associated infections.

Common types of sterile packages 

Frequently used sterile packages include: 

  • IV bags 
  • Blister packs (e.g., sutures, scalpels)
  • Glass or plastic vials (e.g., containing saline, medication) 
  • Peel packs (surgical instruments) 
  • Sterile tubes (for applying sterile creams) 
  • Tray packs (custom-assembled sets of instruments/supplies, [e.g., for catheter insertion]) 

How should a sterile package be handled? 

Steps to prevent contamination around the opening procedure: 

  • Make sure you have a clean, flat surface to place the package on (some procedures may require a sterile field). 
  • If transferring sterile contents to another sterile field, use sterile forceps or a “pour” technique for liquids, ensuring you don’t touch the sterile surfaces with non-sterile objects.
  • Dispose of the package in an appropriate waste container after opening and using. 

How to open a sterile package 

Before opening a sterile package

  • Check package for wetness or soiled marks.
  • Check for tears or openings. 
  • Check the expiration date.
  • Check that the sterile tape is intact. 

Do not use the package if its integrity is compromised. 

Steps of opening a sterile package 

  1. Perform hand hygiene.
  2. Grasp pack at the unsealed edges with the thumbs and gently pull the pack apart.
  3. Hold the pack while exposing the sterile item.
  4. The exposed sterile item can then be handed over to the surgical team, or gently dropped onto the sterile field.


How to Open a Sterile Package

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