Professional Accountability in Perioperative Nursing

Professional accountability in perioperative nursing is a broad descriptor encompassing everything from the manner of our dress, to our values, ethics and moral beliefs. The cornerstone of our practice, however, is the sacred trust our patients place in that professional accountability. The patient sees the perioperative nurse as their advocate, looking out for their safety as they journey through a very vulnerable time. Central to that trust is the patient’s expectation to be free from infection.

In the battle to improve patient safety, surgical site infection is a major focus of the various quality assurance associations as well as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). This year, for specific procedures, surgical site infections will be included in CMS’s denial of payment for hospital-acquired complications. In light of the growing global economic crisis, this also presents an added challenge to hospitals trying to maintain fiscal well being. Developing “zero tolerance” for healthcare-acquired infections must take center stage if we are to be successful.

This is an undeniable opportunity for nursing to shine. Sterilization, aseptic technique, skin preparation, appropriate antibiotic timing, maintenance of normothermia, environmental controls and handwashing are but a few of the measures falling under the umbrella of perioperative nursing practice. Not only are nurses accountable for their individual practice, they are responsible for coordinating team intervention. This is an awesome charge.

Performance excellence is dependent upon the nurse’s self confidence and critical thinking. The American Nurses Association (ANA) Code of Ethics for Professional Ethics refers to this in Provision Four, Duty to Self. Clearly we are mandated to maintain our knowledge and skill with education and networking with professional colleagues. This commitment to lifelong learning is essential in maintaining the high standards we need to serve our patients and coordinate the team’s efforts to achieve positive patient outcomes.

What better place to network and take advantage of educational opportunities than the 56th AORN Congress to be held in Chicago, March 14-19? Chicago is an exciting venue, with the additional lure of the city’s famous St. Patrick Day’s celebrations. Educational events offer many topics of importance on infection control. Our new intensive educational workshops include the Sterilization Certificate Program on March 14 and Infection Prevention on March 15. There are educational sessions daily addressing topics of interest. Sterilization, multidrug-resistant infected wounds, SCIP implementation, cardiac surgical site infections, and sterile processing department operations are a sampling of what is planned. Networking is enhanced by the various receptions, special evening events and our Specialty Assembly meetings.

This year’s Congress theme is “Embrace the Future” and is meant to prepare the nurses of tomorrow as well as to enhance the practice of the seasoned professional. My vision is for us to meet the challenges of the future with enthusiasm, for I believe this is nursing’s time to step into the spotlight as the driver of patient safety. Please join your professional colleagues and friends in Chicago this year. Registration and detailed information may be accessed at http://www.aorn.org/. I hope to see you there... and do not forget to wear green!

Susan K. Banschbach, RN, MSN, CNOR, is AORN president and director of surgery services at St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa, Okla.

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