This spring, Harris College seized a unique opportunity to form a collaborative partnership with Baylor Scott & White hospitals, Baylor University and the University of Texas at Arlington, uniting their efforts to revive the pre-pandemic “Perioperative Nursing” course through an intensive Maymester session.
Perioperative nursing, a specialized field dedicated to patients undergoing operative or invasive procedures, involves close collaboration with surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurse anesthetists, surgical technologists and nurse practitioners. Recently, we engaged in a conversation with Assistant Professors of Professional Practice Jen Gassett, MSN, RN, RNC-OB and Abbie Garcia, MSN, RN, CPN to gain insights into this distinctive course.
“This course gives our students an opportunity to understand the role of the perioperative nurse and to determine if this highly specialized environment is an area they want to pursue in their future nursing career,” explained Gassett.
Gassett explains the perioperative nursing field faces a significant shortage of professionals, with an estimated 20% of perioperative nurses expected to retire within the next five years. Unfortunately, many students are unaware of this career path due to limited exposure in nursing programs, often restricted to just one day of observation during clinicals.
In this course, students delve into various specialty areas, including pre-operative patient preparation, serving as a circulating registered nurse (RN) in the operating room (OR), and caring for post-surgery patients in the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU). This hands-on experience allows students to practice crucial nursing skills and establish connections with hiring managers actively recruiting new nurses.
The course unfolds in three key components: lectures, hands-on skills practice and a perioperative clinical rotation spanning all phases of care within the perioperative environment. During the skills practice day, students work with peers from Baylor University and the University of Texas at Arlington, fostering a collaborative learning environment.
Throughout the course, students explore evidence-based practice issues in perioperative nursing and delve into topics such as organ and blood marrow donation, connecting theory to real-world clinical scenarios. The curriculum emphasizes a combination of conceptual learning and hands-on skills, ensuring students develop a robust skillset specific to perioperative nursing.
Clinical rotations involve six days in the hospital, allowing students to rotate through pre-op, the OR and PACU, working closely with preceptors to refine their nursing skills. In addition to collaborating with faculty and students from other nursing programs, TCU Nursing students also engage with staff and administration at Baylor Scott & White All Saints Medical Center in Fort Worth, providing exposure to a diverse range of surgical cases and patient acuity levels.
The course, designed with a focus on personalized coaching and support due to its small class size, culminates in a semester-long offering starting in spring 2024.
“We aim to empower students to stand out in perioperative nurse residency programs, facilitating a seamless transition from student to perioperative RN,” remarked Garcia.