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Perioperative Nursing at Winchester Medical Center

Perioperative Nursing at Winchester Medical Center

A Unique Nursing Specialty Caring for Patients in the Operating Room Before and During Surgery

When people hear the term “nurse,” many images may go through their minds. But across the nursing spectrum, there are hundreds of specialties that allow nursing professionals to branch out into different specialties. At Winchester Medical Center (WMC), one such specialty includes perioperative nursing, which encompasses preoperative, intraoperative, and postoperative care for surgical patients. WMC offers an Operating Room (OR) Perioperative Nurse program to help prepare nurses for life and work in the OR.

For a nurse new to the OR, this hybrid program is approximately six months long, depending on experience, split between working hands-on in the OR with a preceptor and learning via online modules. After completing the program, nurses are well-prepared to pass the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) Periop 101 Exam while also receiving 40 credit hours towards nursing CEs and a certificate of completion. Nurses with experience working in the OR would not need to go through the entire six-month program but are still required to complete an orientation program to be familiar with all the surgeries Valley Health offers.

What is perioperative nursing?

"Perioperative nursing encompasses many different types of nursing. When we think of a perioperative nurse, typically we think of an OR nurse who's in the OR circulating surgeries. However, Surgical Services also includes pre-op nurses and post-op nurses who work in PACU (Post-Anesthesia Care Unit) and the START clinic, which is where patients may go first to do pre-anesthesia testing, lab work or perhaps an EKG in preparation for their surgery," says Katie F., OR nurse educator.

"OR nursing is a completely different specialty, and the program really helped me to change my mind set to be hyper-focused on sterility and the differences in OR care versus floor nursing patient care," shared Sarah P., a recent graduate of the OR Perioperative Nurse Program.

"The nurses in the program have the opportunity to spend time with different preceptors, while rotating through all our different specialty areas. We have general surgeries, and we also have a large robotics program that continues to grow. Right now, three of our ORs are designated as robotic ORs, as well as an orthopedic robot. Our specialties include neuro, oncology, our bariatric program, vascular, thoracic, open hearts, orthopedics, trauma, and more. It takes a while to learn all these different specialties, and we want to ensure that all new nurses to the OR have adequate time in each specialty, so they are familiar." -Katie F.

"The program instructors were thoughtful in assigning us to easy surgeries first and then building us up to move on to the more difficult surgeries at WMC. This was incredibly helpful in easing us into this new role of nursing in the OR. After going through the program, I was able to pick the top three specialties I'd like to work in. Although it's not guaranteed, I typically work in the areas I picked as my top three." -Sarah P.

The OR at WMC is staffed 24/7, 365 days a year, as part of its Level II Trauma Designation. There is always a team available and on-call in case of an emergency. OR nurses typically work four 10-hour shifts weekly and rotate being on call.

"The type of person that does well in the OR is self-motivated, a critical thinker, and someone who is able to take things objectively. You need to be proactive and not reactive and to be able to anticipate the needs of the surgeon while also communicating clearly with the team. That involves paying close attention to what's happening in that surgery so that you can respond quickly. It takes a special person to work in the OR and those that find their home here tend to stay in the OR setting for the remainder of their nursing careers." Katie F.

Learn more about the OR Perioperative Nurse Program. and what it's like to work in the OR with a few Valley Health team members!

Katie F., RN and OR Nurse Educator

Working in healthcare is a second career for Katie. After a ten-year career in banking, she planned on pursing behavioral health, but once she learned more about what you could do as a nurse and all the opportunities available to nurses, she pursued the accelerated second-degree program at Shenandoah University.

How did you start your career at Valley Health?

When I did my capstone for nursing school, I was privileged enough to do that here in the OR, I had a great preceptor and I loved it. I started Valley Health in February of 2019. I began my nursing career on 4-surgical knowing that I wanted to be an OR nurse. I transferred into the OR Perioperative Nursing Program and became a Circulating Nurse in the OR, then in December of last year, I became the OR Nurse Educator.

What do you do in your current role?

The OR is a very dynamic environment, so we are always learning and continuing our education. Things frequently change, like when we get new surgeons, new procedures, and new technology. Continuing education is critical in this environment to stay up to speed on all the constant changes. What I love about being an educator is that I get to problem solve and come up with solutions and teach about the new products and processes to our staff. I get to think, "What does our staff really need?", "What is going to benefit them in their actual clinical practice?" and put those things into action. I love getting to ask those types of questions and give nurses in the OR the support they need.

Sarah P., RN and OR Perioperative Nurse Program graduate

How did you learn about the periop 101 program?

During my PACU rotation in nursing school, I mentioned that I was interested in the OR. My instructor showed me the Valley Health website and the program openings for the perioperative program and encouraged me to apply.

What made you want to work in the OR?

In school they don't really tell you a lot about the OR, it's kind of a mystery. One of my teachers was able to get me in to see a surgery, and I liked how everyone worked together as a team and how it was a complete focus on one patient at a time. I also appreciate that you're always learning and never bored.

What is your connection to purpose?

After trying many different things, I took an anatomy class and started learning about the body. When I learned about what our bodies can do, and how we can heal ourselves, it was interesting, and I decided to pursue a career in healthcare. I was really excited when I applied to the perioperative program and got in. I learned about myself that, ultimately, I love to help people, and I like making a difference.

Mandi B., RN

How did you start your career?

My first 2 years as a nurse, I was a labor and delivery nurse at a small community hospital where we got to perform one-on-one care with our laboring and postpartum patients.

What do you do in your current role?

I am a circulating nurse in the main operating room. I have worked for Valley Health for over six years and have been a nurse for over 16 years.

What do you love most about your job?

My coworkers! I am lucky to get to work with some of the best surgical techs, nurses, and doctors I have ever worked with in my 14+ years in the operating room!

Jessica B., RN

How did you start your career?

I started working as a nurse in 2008. I have been at Valley Health and in this role for a year, and I have been a nurse for 14 years, serving the first eight as an OB nurse and the past six in surgical services. I have been blessed to have worked and learned in facilities throughout PA, VA, NC, and WV. I love it here at Valley Health. My experience here at Valley Health has given me more than I ever thought possible.

What do you do in your current role?

As a circulator, my main job is to ensure the safety of the patient before, during, and immediately after surgery. I am a helping hand to our amazing surgical technologists as they are scrubbed in and often need many things outside of the sterile field. I help the team within the OR to communicate with the team outside of the OR and make sure that we stay on schedule and all of our patients’ needs are met.

What do you love most about your job?

What I love most about the job are the patients and my work family. Patients come to us at one of their most vulnerable times in life and I consider it an honor to take care of them. My work family is here through the ups and downs of the day and are the support and encouragement I need to be able to do the job that I do.