There’s a perfect storm at work in the nursing field that’s causing an immense shortage of nurses in the operating room.
Concordia University Wisconsin Dean of Nursing Sharon Chappy, PhD, RN, CNOR, co-authored an article that highlights the concern. By 2020, a mass amount of perioperative (or operating room) nurses are predicted to retire, exacerbating an already pressing shortage that exists nationwide.
Add to it the fact that undergraduate nursing programs have a gaping hole when it comes to preparing the next generation of nurses to fill this void, the article states.
With her background in perioperative nursing, it’s not surprising Chappy is especially attuned to the issue.
“Perioperative nursing is a specialty where typically when nurses go into it, they don’t leave, and now, within the last five to 10 years, a lot of them are aging out,” Chappy says. “It’s a concern because OR nurses play a vital role. Who is in the operating room watching out for the patients while they’re asleep and under anesthesia? It’s the perioperative nurses.”
So Chappy decided to set the wheels in motion to begin to address the problem. She approached Mary Beth Kingston, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, chief nursing officer for Advocate Aurora Health, with an idea to formalize an OR rotation among seven Wisconsin nursing schools and area Aurora hospitals and surgery centers.
The semester-long rotation, which welcomed its first students in spring 2017, involves Concordia University Wisconsin, Alverno College, Marquette University, UW-Milwaukee, Carroll University, Cardinal Stritch University, and Milwaukee School of Engineering.
Prior to the cooperative rotation, students from the universities could still request an OR rotation, but with little exposure to perioperative nursing throughout their academic experience, it didn’t happen very often, says Chappy.
There are various reasons why the specialty isn’t a more prevalent part of nursing curricula, suggests Chappy. Many nursing faculty aren’t experienced in the OR themselves and so it isn’t as natural for them to encourage their students to consider it. Some faculty will also argue that the skill sets learned in the OR are different enough from traditional nursing responsibilities that it doesn’t pay to expose students to the specialty unless they know they want to pursue it.
“With this collaborative in place, we can easily work with the schools involved to help expose students to areas they want to be exposed to,” Chappy says. “I can’t tell you the number of OR nurses who are excited about this, and the students who have been through are motivated and happy. Many new graduate nurses are being offered positions in the OR after they finish this rotation.”
— Kali Thiel is director of university communications for Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor. She may be reached at email@example.com or 262-243-2149.
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