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What is Perioperative Nursing?


Upgrading Skills
Professional registered nurses may want to upgrade skills with a subspecialty such as perioperative nursing. Because modern medical techniques are becoming more complex, many hospitals need individuals who understand specific areas of nursing care. A perioperative nurse works closely with other members of a health care team to assist patients undergoing invasive procedures. In the early days of the nursing profession, patients rarely experienced surgery unless it was a dire emergency. People had no anesthesia available for pain and little knowledge concerning cleanliness to avoid infections. A procedure such as repairing a broken bone, delivering a baby by Cesarean section or removing an appendix was usually fatal, due to shock. If a patient survived an operation, death typically occurred later from gangrene, blood loss or fever.

Educational Options
Despite a poor economy, nursing jobs are always plentiful because of the increasing number of senior citizens who require medical care including simple or complicated surgical procedures. Many universities, trade schools and community colleges offer nursing degree programs of various time lengths. An individual interested in this lucrative career option can enter an associate degree program that lasts approximately two years with full-time attendance. A registered nurse with an associate degree can work in entry-level positions at assisted living facilities, physician’s offices and hospitals. Most students prefer to receive a bachelor’s degree in nursing that requires four years to complete.

Specific Skills
Many medical facilities have nursing jobs available in specialized units such as surgery requiring a registered nurse with specific skills concerning patient care before, during and after surgery. Occasionally, a larger hospital may train nurses on-the-job to provide perioperative care to patients. However, more online and brick-and-mortar universities are offering courses in perioperative techniques to individuals who already have a nursing degree. Each geographic region typically requires a registered nurse to continue enrolling in health care courses to maintain licensure. Perioperative specialty courses are one of the newest educational study areas of registered nursing programs offered at the master’s degree level. An individual with a nursing degree can also study to receive a certificate in the perioperative specialty area.

Different Categories
Nursing jobs within the perioperative subspecialty have several categories offering unique opportunities to assist patients while working with a knowledgeable medical team. Scrub nurses are responsible for handing medical instruments to a physician during a surgical procedure. A registered nurse first assistant has numerous tasks to perform including prepping patients for a surgical procedure, retracting skin tissue or stitching incisions. A circulator trained in perioperative care may also work outside the surgery room to maintain paperwork while making sure proper protocols are performed to avoid infection and other dangers. Communication skills are vitally important for nurses working in perioperative roles.

Preparing Patients
Many highly trained individuals including surgical technologists, anesthesiologists and surgeons are inside an operating room to assist patients having surgery. Larger hospitals may have perioperative nurses responsible for preparing patients by performing tests and assessments before procedures. Assessments include measuring a patient’s blood pressure levels, heart rate and vascular health before surgery begins. Understanding a patient’s vital body signs before surgery is necessary to reduce the likelihood of health complications that can lead to strokes, heart attacks or death. All medical personnel including perioperative nurses must have training in emergency cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Multitasking Skills
The perioperative nurses are typically the only individuals on a medical team to communicate directly with patients. Patients having surgery are often fearful about impending medical treatment including anesthesia and require a competent nurse to explain a surgical process. Family members may also have concerns when the patient is a child or senior citizen. Providing emotional support and assistance to patients, family members and the health care team requires multitasking skills. A perioperative nurse must have stamina to withstand assisting patients throughout long shifts. Most surgeries will last an hour or less but many require several hours to complete.

Professional Association
Busy medical facilities have numerous patients in one day receiving an assortment of surgical procedures. A perioperative nurse is often responsible for caring for multiple patients at one time. The registered nurse will care for patients at different stages of a process such after, during and before a procedure. The Association of Perioperative Nurses located in Denver, assists over 40,000 registered nurses in various countries with learning the special skills necessary to help patients receiving surgeries. Nurses with a certificate in the specialty training area of perioperative nursing with two years of practical experience complete an examination to test knowledge. Perioperative nurses with a passing score can use this professional association’s credentials on resumes to show competency in this area of nursing.

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