Viewpoint: A time to honor perioperative nurses

October 26, 2011 

San Luis Obispo County is fortunate to have hundreds of outstanding operating room nurses throughout our community in hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers and private doctors’ offices. Each of them provides a service valued by all surgeons and anesthesia providers (physicians and certified registered nurse anesthetists).

A specialized area of nursing practice is perioperative nursing. The perioperative registered nurse works in collaboration with other health care professionals, who may include the surgeon, anesthesia provider, surgical assistant and other assistive personnel. The perioperative registered nurse provides nursing care to surgical patients before, during and after the operation, often as circulating registered nurse. This important role includes making certain that surgery is being performed on the correct patient, the correct side and the correct site. The circulating nurse is critical as the patient’s advocate, ensuring this universal protocol and national patient safety goal is met each and every time.

Perioperative nursing requires a unique and highly specialized skill set gained from dedicated training and education. This type of nurse is responsible for planning and directing all nursing care for patients about to undergo invasive surgical procedures and advocates for the patient while they are unable to make their own decisions.

Nov. 7 to 13 is National Perioperative Nurse Week, which recognizes the dedicated and hard-working operating room and post-anesthesia recovery room nurses across the country. These generally faceless and transparent nurses provide high-quality care at a time when patients are most vulnerable. By employing their critical thinking, assessment, diagnosing, outcome identification, planning and evaluation skills, the registered nurse circulator directs the nursing care and coordinates activities of the surgical team for the benefit of the patient.

While all other well-qualified medical professionals in the room are focused on their specific duty, the perioperative nurse focuses solely on the patient.

Perioperative nurses want to come from behind the masks and closed doors to let you know that our nurses are dedicated to working hard to protect you, our patients, when you are most vulnerable.

This year, in addition to providing superior patient care, we are also supporting the role of the perioperative nurse in each of the key recommendations of the Institute of Medicine’s recent report, “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health,” which includes nurses practicing to the full extent of their education and training, achieving higher levels of education and being full partners with physicians and other health care professionals in helping redesign health care in the United States.

We ask you to join us in celebrating the perioperative nurse in your life during 2011 Perioperative Nurse Week.

Laura Gaminde, R.N., is director of surgical services at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo.

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