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Growing Perioperative Nurse Shortage Puts Medical Facilities at Risk

Wednesday, May 9, 2018 9:00 AM

Expert Advice, Hot Topics, ASCs

Written by: Leanne Gallegos

Editor's Note: Although this post focuses on hospitals, the same issue exists in ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs). Progressive Surgical Solutions consultants (including Leanne Gallegos) frequently work with ASCs that face the same challenge of recruiting and retaining qualified clinical directors and nursing staff. Progressive became part of BSM Consulting earlier this year.

Leanne Gallegos
Senior consultant

By year 2020, it is predicted that the U.S. nursing supply will drop 36 percent below what will be required to safely and efficiently run our health care systems. The impact of such a shortage will be even more evident and dangerous considering experienced hospital operating room (OR) nurses are a must for safely staffing an OR.

This perioperative nurse decline is a hard pill to swallow considering that more than half of a hospital’s net revenue typically comes from surgeries. The scary part is that these same facilities will be looking at possible revenue loss — and potential OR closure — due to the shortage.

This shortage will continue to grow if medical facilities do not start constructing a retention plan that addresses the four key areas below.

Specialized training. Newly licensed nurses now enter the workforce with little knowledge or experience in specialized areas such as perioperative nursing. This is because nursing schools have done away with offering specialized training and have shifted their curricula to focus on preparing student nurses to successfully pass the licensing exam. As a result, newly licensed registered nurses will often shy away from nursing specialties that require more training. To help combat this issue, medical centers are now forced to develop and offer on-the-job training programs like Periop 101: A Core Curriculum, an offering from the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN), which typically takes between six to eight months to complete. At the end of such additional training, the hope is that these new nurses — who now have clinical, didactic, and lab experience — will emerge as competent perioperative nurses who are enthusiastic about their profession and happy with their job duties and place of employment.
Work-life balance. Even with the advanced training mentioned above, being able to maintain a meaningful work-life balance can quickly become an issue. A demanding and unreasonable on-call schedule, mingled with different shifts being worked during a given period, lends itself to newly minted perioperative nurses wanting to jump ship in favor of a specialty that allows for more “normal” hours … and, presumably, a better quality of life outside the workplace.
Leadership. Due to the fast-paced environment of the OR and the constant push for productivity, leadership issues can arise and directly impact job satisfaction for perioperative nurses (and all staff). It is imperative that strong leaders are in place to give perioperative nurses a sense of support, especially when that pace may need to be slowed down for the sake of safety. If nurses feel like they work in an environment where policies regarding patient care and safety are not strictly adhered to, then they will feel unsupported — which is detrimental to retention.
Pay and benefits. The 2017 AORN salary survey found that as older, more seasoned perioperative nurses remain at the same place of employment, there is a need and desire for retention bonuses and more paid time off. It is especially disheartening to long-term employees when they cap out at being able to accrue additional paid-time-off hours, which often happens after 15 years of employment. Perioperative nurses then start to question if they are valued by their employer when they see a pattern of no retention bonuses and no increase in paid time off. They are also left wondering if they will even receive an annual 1 to 2 percent salary increase.

Medical facilities that address these four key areas have a greater chance of stemming the tide of their perioperative nursing staff departures.

LEARN MORE: Visit or call 855-777-4272 to learn how Progressive Surgical Solutions, a division of BSM, can help you with this matter and others.


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