Leadership Transitions in AORN

Leadership Transitions in AORN

By Paula Graling, RN, MSN, CNOR, CNS, and Sharon McNamara, RN, MS, CNOR

Leading a national specialty association of 40,000 members like the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) requires a collaborative leadership model to meet the needs of the practitioners at the clinical interface and advance the profession of perioperative nursing. AORN made this paradigm shift last year when then-president Bill Duffy and current president Sharon McNamara consciously developed a model that involved the two leaders and the executive director, Tom Cooper, intimately involved on every level of the organization. Strategic planning was accomplished with both presidents visions considered, as well as the two candidates for president-elect. Continuity is imperative when key leadership changes each year and the profession being represented is an intricate part of the fast-paced, everchanging healthcare arena. This model facilitated development of initiatives to meet member needs, long-term strategic planning, and continuity of creative programs which ran over the yearly term cycle. The process compelled the board of directors and executive team to constantly focus on mission-driven priorities. The mission of AORN is to support registered nurses in achieving optimal outcomes for patients undergoing operative and other invasive procedures.

An example of this is the Patient Safety First Program, which started five years ago during Donna Watsons presidency. Patient safety has always been a practice priority for the perioperative nurse, and this influential program was created to enhance the visibility and support nursing practice around one of our principle tenets. During Duffys year under the umbrella of Patient Safety First, we initiated National Time Out Day, which has evolved into a campaign to educate nurses and the public on safety measures to promote positive patient outcomes. National media events have been held and educational toolkits have been distributed to thousands of hospitals and to our AORN members. The first years subject was correct-site surgery, and this year we emphasized medication safety and labeling of medications on the sterile field. What can we expect in the year ahead from AORN?

At the conclusion of the 53rd Congress in March, current president McNamara will turn over her gavel to Paula Graling, a clinical nurse specialist from Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, Va. Graling has been working closely with McNamara since she was on the ballot as president-elect, and has been involved all year long in discussions and decision making as a member of the executive committee. Gralings platform will focus on decreasing the anonymity of the role of the perioperative practitioner while emphasizing the contributions they make to surgical patient outcomes. The perioperative nurse is a valued member of the team who is respected for their knowledge and competence. Nurses should be comfortable articulating their ability to manage the environment of healing, mastering the innovative technology needed to care for a patient and communicating the skills needed to influence change in healthcare. The committees and taskforces of AORN will be addressing patient-care issues such as venous stasis, fluid management, and malignant hyperthermia. Following McNamaras focus on diversity, AORN will continue its work with its nursing and industry partners in other countries to be the global leader for excellence in perioperative care. AORN will advocate for patient safety in 2006 with the introduction of a fire safety toolkit that includes education about fire prevention and fire management strategies. Along with the patient safety initiatives comes a workplace safety focus.

Percutaneous injuries, smoke exposure, and fatigue are three identified issues which are affecting caregivers within the perioperative environment. Two specific committees which will continue their work into Gralings year exhibit the collaborative efforts of the leadership model: the On Call task force which has been addressing issues related to on call hours and fatigue with long hours worked, and the Just Culture task force. The Just Culture task force has developed a position statement, heard by the 53rd House of Delegates, on creating a just response to error in the perioperative work environment. Additional work may be considered to expand the position statement to education offerings and perhaps toolkits, which may improve utilization in the everyday workplace.

While we promote our practice, and protect our patients, we will also be preserving our future. Keeping the RN as circulator in the OR, insuring the inclusion of perioperative clinical learning activities in the undergraduate nursing curriculum, and working to ease the faculty shortage will all be strategies we must employ to ensure a vital nursing workforce to care for us in the future.

Our leadership model overall includes collaboration with presidents spanning three years and active participation by the AORN board, AORN members through chapters, specialty assemblies, state councils, committees, and task forces. It demonstrates the ability of perioperative nurses to take the team skills they use daily in the surgical and procedure room areas and apply them to a leadership model to benefit their association. We are a phenomenal volunteer organization supported by a stellar headquarters staff, together driving the profession of perioperative nursing.

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