Responsive Education

April 6, 2016

The operating room is a challenging, fast-paced environment, and nurses either love it or hate it. Those who want to thrive there require education that is not typically part of an undergraduate nursing program. MacEwan University’s Perioperative Nursing program provides the basic foundations for success in this high-intensity workplace.

“It takes about two years for a nurse – after they’ve received perioperative nursing education, and once they’ve started working in the OR – to become proficient in the area,” says Shirley Galenza, director of the Centre for Professional Nursing Education. “Our program is required for them to be able to start to function in the OR.”

The innovative spirit of the program and those working behind the scenes have expanded its cohort and have initiated a number of exciting developments that are sure to have significant benefits for operating nurses in Alberta and across Canada. 

Collaborative Partnerships

One of those benefits comes from a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between three post-secondary institutions – MacEwan University, Grande Prairie Regional College and Lethbridge College – and Alberta Health Services (AHS), which was signed in fall 2014. The MOU supports the undertaking of a collaborative approach to deliver perioperative education to AHS employees across Alberta.When the academic institutions came together to discuss the arrangement, they reviewed their curricula to ensure they would be able to provide similar programming, meet the Operating Room Nurses Association of Canada’s standards, and put in place a transfer agreement for students. The transfer agreement enables students, who may start at one of the three institutions, to complete their education at one of the other two, if required.

Since signing the agreement, MacEwan University’s Perioperative Nursing program has been providing education services to AHS and, in February, was on its fifth contract with the health services organization.

Sharing Knowledge Internationally

The program does not just provide educational services – it shares knowledge. In May 2015, faculty member and program coordinator Roxanne Fox will be in Rome for the European Operating Room Nurses Association conference. The conference is an opportunity for nurses and educators to present innovative developments in perioperative nursing, such as new procedures and techniques, and to learn what’s being done in other parts of the world.

At the conference, Fox will be presenting on the importance of being a supportive preceptor (clinical instructor) and on mentoring individuals in the operating room environment. “I’m hoping to bring back some insight into how other countries are providing education for their students, what sort of models they’re using and teaching and if we’re ahead of the game,” says Fox. “Sometimes other countries do things better, though differently, and it’s always interesting to get a different perspective on education in the perioperative environment.”

The OR can be challenging, complicated, and a little bit intimidating because the equipment and supplies used there are different from those used in general nursing.

― Roxanne Fox, CPNE


Simulation in Labs

Fox’s presentation on preceptorship will cover the perioperative program’s use of MacEwan University’s world famous simulation labs.

For the program’s students and instructors, one nursing classroom in the university’s Robbins Health Learning Centre is set up for use as an operating room. The simulation lab makes use of all the equipment and supplies found in an ordinary operating room: the lights, bed, anesthetic machine, scrub sinks, instrumentation carts and even the kinds of documentation students may encounter.

“The OR can be challenging, complicated, and a little bit intimidating because the equipment and supplies used there are different from those used in general nursing,” explains Fox.

For students, having the opportunity to practice – with lots of hands-on time – is crucial to building confidence in their skills before they begin work in clinical settings.

Robotics in the OR

Although the Centre for Professional Nursing Education doesn’t teach the use of robotics in the OR, the university’s relationship with the Centre for the Advancement of Minimally Invasive Surgery (CAMIS) enables the university’s Perioperative Nursing program to provide a one-day lab for its Alberta Health Services cohorts. During the day, students participate in a dry lab that uses the da Vinci Surgical System at the Royal Alexandra Hospital.

Using a robotics platform in the OR is similar to performing laparoscopic surgery. The surgeon makes small incisions using minimally invasive surgical instruments – except that the instruments are used by a robot. The surgeon manipulates the instruments from a console while the robotics system operates from a fixed place above the patient.

The one-day lab is merely an introduction to the extraordinary advancements being made in operating room procedures and to the da Vinci system in particular. Only a core group of CAMIS staff members have training in robotics.

Though it’s too early to say whether training in robotics systems will be extended to other cohorts of the program, there have nevertheless been exciting developments in the program in just a few short years. The program’s commitment to innovation will ensure that the next generation of operating room nurses will be even better prepared to excel in the OR environment.

At MacEwan’s Centre for Professional Nursing Education, LPNs and RNs have the opportunity to expand their knowledge and skill in Perioperative Nursing. Learn more at  Perioperative Nursing for Licensed Practical Nurses or Perioperative Nursing for Registered Nurses.


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