With millions of surgeries taking place annually across the nation, a career as a perioperative nurse is one that is both secure and exciting. This week’s recognition of Perioperative Nurses Week (November 10-16) lets people know about the critical work these nurses do throughout a surgical process.
Perioperative nurses serve the vital role of helping patients before and after surgery to ensure they are safe, informed, and comfortable. These nurses also take on the role of being the patient’s advocate when they are in surgery and unable to speak for themselves.
Organizations such as the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) are excellent resources of information and education in this career. Perioperative nurses depend on a variety of medical, critical thinking, social, and analytical skills every time they report to work. No day is every the same as the one before, and perioperative nurses know even routine surgery isn’t always routine.
With this responsibility, perioperative nurses are experts at understanding how a human body reacts under surgery and how human emotions can be unpredictable pre- and post-surgery.
Patients see perioperative nurses before they go into the OR. All the talk that goes on isn’t just idle chit chat, as perioperative nurses have specific expertise in chatting with patients to find out more about them. They are naturally interested in learning more about the patient, but they are also looking for information they can use when the patient is coming out of anesthesia.
People can become confused, agitated, happy, or sad when they are waking up from surgery, and an experienced perioperative nurse knows just how to guide the situation so the patient feels safe, is medically stable, and can get reoriented. Nurses will use the information they gained pre-op to talk to the patient. Maybe the person likes golf or talked about family or mentioned a quilting habit. Bringing up those familiar and happy associations helps patients enormously and also makes a nurse’s job easier. Managing a patient who is calmer makes their recovery easier, faster, and safer.
Many people don’t know the nurse who cares for them before and after surgery is also present by their side during surgery. During Perioperative Nurses Week, nurses can make a point to let people know of the complexities of this role.
They are patient advocates, but they are also a core part of the surgical team as well. Nurses in the surgical suite must be experts at preventing problems and spotting any issues immediately. With their attention fully on the patient, they are in charge of noticing if a patient is reacting poorly to any part of the process. They keep track of the monitors to see blood pressure, oxygen levels, and heart activity, but they have to continually assess the patient visually. They will notice any change in the patient’s physical body—from breathing patterns to skin color changes—that could indicate a problem.
The perioperative nurse relies on a toolbox that holds a little bit of everything—an intense focus, up-to-date medical skills, keen attention to the patient, social ease, and compassion—to help patients through surgery.
If you’re a perioperative nurse, take some time this week to celebrate the care you give your patients, the teamwork you contribute, and the way your work elevates the entire nursing profession.