Nursing education rethink needed to support nurses in niche fields

A new PhD study aims to improve the experience of new nurses who are beginning their journey into perioperative care.


A new PhD study aims to improve the experience of new nurses who are beginning their journey into perioperative care – a field that has struggled to entice nurses into its specialty.

CQUniversity lecturer Nick Nijkamp, who also has experience as a theatre nurse in Bundaberg, is the coordinator of the study, which will develop a framework hospitals and healthcare providers can use to offer greater support to new perioperative care nurses, who play a critical role by providing care to patients undergoing surgery.

“This framework would help healthcare organisations design, develop, and implement a transition-to-practice program for perioperative nursing,” he told EducationDaily.

Mr Nijkamp says he was inspired by his own experiences starting in the field.

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“I personally see one of the greatest challenges to be the recruitment of novice perioperative nurses into the specialty,” he told EducationDaily.

Supporting a rewarding career choice

Currently, he says, perioperative nursing is not an integral component of undergraduate nursing curriculums.

“As such, it may not be a career choice that novice nurses choose – despite it being an amazing and rewarding career,” Mr Nijkamp says.

He believes nurses should have access to a more standardised program that provides healthcare workers with a strong education foundation.

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“Of course, we need to ensure that the framework we develop is flexible enough to cater to the wide variety of perioperative departments and their organisational need,” he says. “We would hope that, in turn, this would benefit novice perioperative nurses who are employed and undertake a transition program.”

Filling the gaps improves nurses’ education

Mr Nijkamp says these frameworks are necessary to fill the gaps within the specialisation.

“Perioperative nursing is a highly specialised area within the nursing profession that relies on high levels of theoretical knowledge, clinical skill, and critical thinking to maintain patient safety before, during, and after surgical procedures,” he says.

However, because he says perioperative nursing is generally not covered in depth in undergraduate nursing programs, some graduates are not exposed to this type of care setting unless they undertake a clinical placement in a perioperative setting.

“This has essentially led to a depletion of skills overtime, and we are also witnessing many experienced practitioners enter retirement, or even leave the speciality due to stress and burnout due to the demanding nature of the specialisation,” he told EducationDaily.

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Support for nurses will benefit patients

He invites nursing professionals, especially graduate nurses who have recently entered perioperative practice, to take part in a research survey.

“Ultimately, this is important because investing in the education and support of novice perioperative nurses not only benefits the nurses themselves but also has far reaching implications for health care organisations and their ability to recruit and retain highly skilled staff with the confidence to deliver quality care and uphold patient safety.”

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