College of Health and Behavioral Studies

Nursing introduces perioperative elective


By: Sara Banton
Creative Services Student Writer

Nursing Elective

Perioperative nurses work with surgery patients, surgeons and anesthesiologists; most significantly, they work “behind the red line,” where only those having surgery or performing surgery are permitted. There are three phases in the perioperative setting and nurses are an integral part of the perioperative team.

Shawn Craddock, Director of Perioperative Services at Sentara RMH, noticed a lack of JMU nursing students applying to work in perioperative nursing after graduating. Since Sentara RMH is one of the few hospitals that hires new graduates for their perioperative program, he wanted to change this. When he shared his observation with Karen Weeks, a nursing instructor, she realized that students were missing the exposure to perioperative care in the curriculum.

Two months later, the course they planned was approved and the NSG 490: Introduction to Perioperative Nursing became an elective in the program. Weeks administers the online, academic portion of the class and Craddock works with the students during their clinicals.

“The course is set up to be a fun learning experience and it’s really tailored around the student,” Craddock said. He emphasized the differences between these clinicals and the medical surgical clinicals. “We have the flexibility to change clinical days because it’s a small group of people, locally controlled between Professor Weeks and me. The students also get this exposure in a more nurturing type of way than in a typical nursing clinical.”

The clinicals take place over the course of three eight-hour days. Each day, the student spends the entirety in one of the three phases of perioperative nursing, but prior to going into the clinical setting, the students have to complete the online portion of the course for that particular phase.

On the first day, the student shadows nurses preparing a patient for surgery, observing IV starts and learning why nurses ask the patient the questions that they do. On the second day, the student works in the operating room, gaining experience scrubbing in for surgeries, putting on the medical gowns and gloves and assisting the surgeon. On the third day, they work in the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU), where they care for the patient waking up from the anesthetic and during the immediate recovery phase.

“The main focus, which is a thread that runs through the core of this course, is understanding the safety aspects that the nurse does to make sure the patient is safe throughout the process,” Craddock said. “So by the last day, the student sees this common thread of safety that runs through the entire department and how what you did in pre-op impacts what you did in OR and post-op.”

Mallori Mendez (’18) took the elective the first time it was offered, during the summer of 2018. Surgical services had always been an interest of hers and this elective allowed her to experience it in a clinical setting. With Craddock’s help, she interviewed for a position in the PACU as a Patient Care Technician (PCT) after the course ended. She worked there through the summer and during her last semester at JMU.

“This course was the first stepping stone that led me to my job today,” Mendez said. “After seeing the teamwork and flow of care through the perioperative experience, I knew that surgical services were something I could see myself doing after becoming a licensed RN. I learned a lot from the nurses in the PACU while I worked as a PCT there and was offered a position in the PACU at UVA Health System as an RN after I graduated.”

Having the experience from the perioperative elective was beneficial for Mendez. The course helped her gain two positions and exposure to a new field; it proved to be life changing.

“It’s a different type of course and the goal was meant to be an immersion into the perioperative field, where they get a glimpse of something they haven’t seen before,” Weeks said. “Students are standing next to surgeons and it’s amazing to them. That’s something they are so enthusiastic about.”

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Published: Friday, April 19, 2019

Last Updated: Tuesday, July 2, 2019

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