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Guided theatre experience vital for nurses

Guided theatre experience vital for nurses
Photo: Guided theatre experience vital for nurses
Australia’s undergraduate nurses should have guided operating theatre experience as part of their preparation for surgical ward nursing, new research recommends.

A study of 350 nurses across Australia showed undergraduate and graduate nurses with guided operating room experience had significantly more knowledge when it came to surgical ward nursing.

Operating room nursing was removed from the undergraduate nursing core curriculum in 1994.

In the aftermath of a major surgical incident more than 10 years ago, questions have been raised about the ability for nurses to care for pre- and post-operative patients on acute surgical wards without the knowledge and expertise gleaned from guided operating room experience.

Dr Paula Foran, an honorary clinical senior lecturer at Deakin University’s School of Nursing and Midwifery and Deakin’s School of Medicine, examined whether nurses with non-guided or no operating room experience could care for patients before and after surgery with the same level of knowledge and expertise compared with nurses with a guided learning experience.
Her PhD study, a quantitative analysis recently published in Nurse Education in Practice, knowledge-tested undergraduate nurses at the end of their training and again at the end of their graduate year on areas of post-operative care.

The study compared participants’ knowledge to the model of operating room education to determine whether there was a correlation between the two.

Dr Foran found undergraduate nurses with guided operating room experience had a 76 per cent pass rate compared to 56 per cent for non-guided learners, while graduate nurses with guided operating room experience as an undergraduate or graduate nurse had a 100 per cent pass rate compared to 53 per cent for non-guided learners.

Dr Foran, the education officer at the Australian College of Operating Room Nurses (ACORN) and a perioperative nurse with 30 years’ experience, said the results showed guided operating room nursing experience supports best patient outcomes in surgical patients.

“I can assure you that novice nurses learn more about post-operative surgical nursing working in an operating theatre and a surgical ward than if you’ve just worked in a surgical ward alone,” she said.

Dr Foran said operating room experience provides transferable skills in pre and post-operative patient education and care, acute pain management, and asepsis.

“The operating theatre is an area of massively rich learning - for every case when patients are in theatre and in PACU, we are always thinking about the possible complications of that case and looking out for them,” she said.

“Many novice nurses do not go to theatre any more but it’s the middle part of a three part process and so if you’re looking after a patient post-operatively, to have actually seen and understand what they’ve had done in the operation is really valuable.”

Dr Foran said a lack of operating room education and experience was also impacting on the specialty’s ability to recruit and retain nurses.

“Certainly we know that if nurses do not visit the operating theatre as undergraduates they’re less likely to choose it as a postgraduate,” she said.

“Students who had guided experiences and those who came from the few universities that provided guidance in the operating theatre, really had a fantastic experience as opposed to those who just sort of walked in and out and had a quick look and those that didn’t come at all.

“If you’ve never been to a theatre, why would you choose to do it later?”

Dr Foran encouraged ward nurses without theatre experience to pursue opportunities to follow a patient right through the surgery process.

“I would invite nurses from other parts of the hospital, if they’re working on ward areas where they’re looking after patients and they haven’t actually seen their surgery, ask if they can come to theatre and watch one of their patient’s surgeries because it really is an eye-opening experience.”


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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords