By Paula Graling, RN, MSN, CNOR, CNS, and Sharon McNamara, RN, MS, CNOR
Leading a national specialty association of 40,000 members like theAssociation of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) requires a collaborativeleadership model to meet the needs of the practitioners at the clinicalinterface and advance the profession of perioperative nursing. AORN made thisparadigm shift last year when then-president Bill Duffy and current presidentSharon McNamara consciously developed a model that involved the two leaders andthe executive director, Tom Cooper, intimately involved on every level of theorganization. Strategic planning was accomplished with both presidentsvisions considered, as well as the two candidates for president-elect.Continuity is imperative when key leadership changes each year and theprofession being represented is an intricate part of the fast-paced,everchanging healthcare arena. This model facilitated development of initiativesto meet member needs, long-term strategic planning, and continuity of creativeprograms which ran over the yearly term cycle. The process compelled the boardof directors and executive team to constantly focus on mission-drivenpriorities. The mission of AORN is to support registered nurses in achievingoptimal outcomes for patients undergoing operative and other invasiveprocedures.
An example of this is the Patient Safety First Program, which started fiveyears ago during Donna Watsons presidency. Patient safety has always been a practice priority for the perioperativenurse, and this influential program was created to enhance the visibility andsupport nursing practice around one of our principle tenets. During Duffysyear under the umbrella of Patient Safety First, we initiated National Time OutDay, which has evolved into a campaign to educate nurses and the public onsafety measures to promote positive patient outcomes. National media events havebeen held and educational toolkits have been distributed to thousands ofhospitals and to our AORN members. The first years subject was correct-sitesurgery, and this year we emphasized medication safety and labeling ofmedications 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 McNamarawill turn over her gavel to Paula Graling, a clinical nurse specialist fromInova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, Va. Graling has been working closelywith McNamara since she was on the ballot as president-elect, and has beeninvolved all year long in discussions and decision making as a member of theexecutive committee. Gralings platform will focus on decreasing the anonymity of the role ofthe perioperative practitioner while emphasizing the contributions they make tosurgical patient outcomes. The perioperative nurse is a valued member of the team who is respected fortheir knowledge and competence. Nurses should be comfortable articulating their ability to manage theenvironment of healing, mastering the innovative technology needed to care for apatient and communicating the skills needed to influence change in healthcare. The committees and taskforces of AORN will be addressing patient-care issuessuch as venous stasis, fluid management, and malignant hyperthermia. FollowingMcNamaras focus on diversity, AORN will continue its work with its nursingand industry partners in other countries to be the global leader for excellencein perioperative care. AORN will advocate for patient safety in 2006 with theintroduction of a fire safety toolkit that includes education about fireprevention and fire management strategies. Along with the patient safetyinitiatives comes a workplace safety focus.
Percutaneous injuries, smoke exposure, and fatigue are three identifiedissues which are affecting caregivers within the perioperative environment. Twospecific committees which will continue their work into Gralings year exhibitthe collaborative efforts of the leadership model: the On Call task force whichhas been addressing issues related to on call hours and fatigue with long hoursworked, and the Just Culture task force. The Just Culture task force hasdeveloped a position statement, heard by the 53rd House of Delegates, oncreating a just response to error in the perioperative work environment.Additional work may be considered to expand the position statement to educationofferings and perhaps toolkits, which may improve utilization in the everydayworkplace.
While we promote our practice, and protect our patients, we will also bepreserving our future. Keeping the RN as circulator in the OR, insuring theinclusion of perioperative clinical learning activities in the undergraduatenursing curriculum, and working to ease the faculty shortage will all bestrategies we must employ to ensure a vital nursing workforce to care for us inthe future.
Our leadership model overall includes collaboration with presidents spanningthree years and active participation by the AORN board, AORN members throughchapters, specialty assemblies, state councils, committees, and task forces. Itdemonstrates the ability of perioperative nurses to take the team skills theyuse daily in the surgical and procedure room areas and apply them to aleadership model to benefit their association. We are a phenomenal volunteerorganization supported by a stellar headquarters staff, together driving the profession of perioperative nursing.