The evolving role of perioperative nurses

The evolving role of perioperative nurses

By Medline Newsroom Staff | November 13, 2023

Perioperative Management

The evolving role of perioperative nurses

Helping nurses reclaim patient-centered care in the operating room

Healthcare Trends: The evolving role of periop nurses

The hospital operating room has undergone tremendous change over the past five years—from more robotic surgeries and technology, to supply chain challenges and a greater focus on infection prevention protocols and metrics during and post-COVID-19. And at the forefront of these changes—helping to keep it all together—are perioperative nurses.

“Perioperative nurses are resilient and they’re flexible,” said Kimberly Haines, RN, Medline director of perioperative clinical programs. “They’re also being asked to do more every day. There’s a lot more involved now in the job.”

“So much has changed,” said Nikki Miles, a perioperative nurse at North Kansas City Hospital who has seen fewer open heart, hernia and other procedures as technology has evolved.

“It’s changing so rapidly and there’s constantly new equipment coming in that we have to adapt to,” said Miles, a perioperative nurse for more than 10 years. “There’s also a lot more attention on infection rates now—understanding where they’re coming from, and following up and making changes where needed—which is good.”

Haines says today’s operating room “is more complex, with more toys. At the same time, two things happened during the pandemic—you had a ton of institutional knowledge retire, so the people who knew how to run things have retired. And there wasn’t always a protocol or policy to connect all the dots. And now new staff is coming in and they don’t know how all the puzzle pieces go together.”

Diverting attention from patient care

Haines says a greater focus on new and evolving equipment, in addition to supply shortages, can potentially “take time and attention away” from patient care.

“We want to support perioperative nurses—they’re the best MacGyvers in the world. They figure out everything, they’re good problem solvers and they think outside the box. But they’re being asked to do so much more today.”

Kim Haines, Medline Director of Clinical Programs for Perioperative Sales

Kim Haines, RN

Perioperative Nurse and Medline Director of Perioperative Clinical Perioperative

“If you’re worried about equipment, you’re not worried about a pressure injury,” said Haines. “You’re doing things at an accelerated pace, and often you’re not dealing with potential safety issues.”

Haines, a certified perioperative nurse for more than 25 years, said that during her training, “there wasn’t one ounce of curriculum around technology and supplies. And now it’s 50% of the job.

“You weren’t worried if you had the right supplies to do the right procedures,” said Haines, adding that perioperative nurses today are often forced to make quick decisions on alternative supplies. “It takes so much more time away from the patient.”

Miles said that in perioperative nursing, staying calm “and helping people understand why you do what you’re doing” can help with the evolving changes and demands of the operating room. Also, adhering to infection prevention protocols—“washing your hands, and if you contaminate something, speak up: Nobody is going to be upset with you. You don’t need to be quiet about it.”

Keeping up with education requirements and opportunities is also important, said Miles.

Helping to improve OR efficiencies

However, in some hospitals, the challenges are more pervasive and severe, said Haines: “Post-pandemic, many ORs know that the levy is broken and they don’t know how to fix it.”

Medline is helping many of these operating rooms to identify broad opportunities and strategies—in operations, infection prevention, workflow, supply handling and management, waste and processes. Through the company’s perioperative supply chain optimization service, Medline conducts assessments—71 in 2022, alone—that provide a roadmap for improving patient care, outcomes and efficiencies.

“Part of what we do is go in and make a diagnosis—this is broken, that is not working. We then solve these challenges by identifying and building more efficient ways to better support the OR,” said Haines.

In addition, Medline University’s Perioperative Resource Center offers free courses and best practice guidance posters to help busy operating room staff improve efficiencies, promote safety and prevent healthcare-associated infections. Medline also recently introduced nine Patient Safety Microlearning Courses for OR Professionals—short courses providing safety updates on surgical site infections, perioperative hypothermia, perioperative pressure injuries, catheter-associated UTIs and other topics.

“We want to support perioperative nurses—they’re the best MacGyvers in the world,” said Haines. “They figure out everything, they’re good problem solvers and they think outside the box. But they’re being asked to do so much more today. We want to help minimize their challenges and stress so they can focus on patients—the reason they got into perioperative nursing in the first place.”

Learn more about how Medline is helping operating rooms run better.

Categories: Caregiver Readiness, Infection Prevention, Perioperative

Medline Newsroom Staff

Medline Newsroom Staff

Medline's newsroom staff researches and reports on the latest news and trends in healthcare.

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