Have you or someone you love ever had a surgical procedure? If so, you have personally been cared for by a perioperative nurse. Every year, the Association of Perioperative Registered Nurses (AORN) chooses one week to put the spotlight on this specialized group of nurses, and this year Perioperative Nurses Week is being celebrated from November 8-14th, 2020. I would like to take the time to recognize all the hard work and continued commitment to patient safety by perioperative nurses. The recognition is especially well-deserved in 2020 as the Year of the Nurse and Midwife and COVID-19 collide; I know your commitment to the perioperative practice is even more challenging yet rewarding.
The perioperative nurse is a crucial part of any OR team. Perioperative nurses provide surgical patient care by assessing, planning, and implementing the nursing care patients receive before, during, and after surgery. These activities include patient assessment, creating and maintaining a sterile and safe surgical environment, pre- and post-operative patient education, monitoring the patient’s physical and emotional well-being, and integrating and coordinating patient care throughout the surgical care continuum.
This is a stressful job in and of itself, but during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic it’s been especially challenging. During the first surge of the pandemic, most hospitals had to hit the pause button on elective procedures, leaving many perioperative nurses with reduced hours, furloughed, or moved to a different area of the hospital for a time. Take our client MercyOne Des Moines for example. They temporarily created a new “tasking” role for nurses who did not have patients to care for, to perform tasks for other departments which were within the scope of their expertise.
For surgeries that did not get cancelled or as hospitals have started to resume elective surgeries, perioperative nurses have had to be even more diligent on creating and maintaining a sterile and safe surgical environment. They’ve also had to collaborate with their their anesthesia and surgical physician colleagues to devise plans for various scenarios and situations such as how to proceed with patients who are scheduled to have surgery but don’t yet have a confirmed COVID-19 status, how to prepare for surgeries on patients who are COVID-19 positive, and how to conserve PPE in the perioperative environment.
Before making the move to consulting and the corporate world, I was a perioperative nurse myself, and had an interesting nursing journey to get there. I’ve always loved sciences, and throughout high school and college I went back and forth between whether to follow a physician or nursing track. I had the opportunity to shadow some physicians and nurses during college, and the nursing track won out. I liked their level of interaction with patients at the bedside, that you just can’t get in other medical roles.
As typical, I started at the bedside of a med surg unit and moved quickly to critical care areas; first surgical intensive care and then emergency medicine. I learned in these areas the importance of quality and safety in patient care but I also became intrigued about the business of healthcare and noticed how little the voice of the nurse was actually heard. As I furthered my education I decided to study business and start another journey in nursing leadership and this is what brought me to perioperative nursing over 25 years ago.
I chose to focus my specialization in perioperative nursing because of the complexity of the arena. I was able to bring all my past nursing experiences and newly acquired business skills to focus on delivering exceptional patient care that was fiscally impactful in the perioperative setting. With all these skills, I was able to have a seat at the table and share the voice of the nurse advocating the patient position as well as articulate the business imperatives that affect patient care as well as the healthcare organization. I also enjoyed the dynamic team-focused relationship I had with my surgeons and anesthesiologists. I’m not sure I would’ve had such strong relationships with my colleagues if I went into a different area of nursing.
However, the most rewarding part of perioperative nursing for me was this one-on-one patient care and when the families would take the time to recognize and thank me or my team for our work. That always made me feel like I was doing the right thing and caring for patients in a way that was making a difference. Even as a leader you would always find me in scrubs rounding in all three phases, assisting where I could. The patient, the nurse, the surgeon, the anesthesia team – the espirit de corps in perioperative is like no other.
Since leaving the hospital setting, I continue to hold the values of being a perioperative nurse, specifically on their focus of patient care in the center of whatever I do. I like to think I bring it to my role here at Hospital IQ as I strive to improve the day-to-day operations and satisfaction with the clients that we work with who are delivering patient care.
All nurses, not just perioperative, are the unsung heroes in healthcare. They are the glue of pulling all of the care continuum together around their patients, advocating for those patients at all costs. Being a perioperative nurse and professional nurse executive is a time I will always cherish, and I join all of Hospital IQ in thanking our perioperative nurses for everything they do. Happy Perioperative Nurses Week!
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