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Perioperative Nursing: A Brief Intro




As we wish Florence Nightingale her 200th birthday this year,

one of the specialties that has been advancing in leaps & bounds since our mate Flo’s era is Perioperative Nursing.


Much of this change has been seen as a result of disaster &

wartime & then continued to be honed throughout the in-between.





This complex area of healthcare is one of the oldest nursing specialties. The perioperative period spans the time between preparation for surgery & anaesthesia through to the recovery of both.





In the late 1800s (Flo's era), surgery was advancing at a rapid pace. Procedures were increasing in complexity & trained qualified assistants were needed to support the surgeon. Nurses were apt to perform this role & advanced clinical practice positions have developed over time.


Unfortunately, as time has progressed nursing education has seen a decrease in the presence of the perioperative specialty in nursing curriculum. This has mostly been due to a side effect of political & societal factors. As a result, many trainee nurses are missing out on exploring this area in theory & practice. This could change with the review of nursing education programs & platforms in the coming years.


Perioperative nursing is based on the philosophy of

- Acknowledging patient dignity

- Promotion of knowledge & skills of all team members via evidence based practice methods in order to achieve positive patient outcomes

- Ensuring a safe physical & mental environment for all concerned

- And one of the most essential roles is being the patient's advocate




A number of staff are required in the perioperative suite to assist in the safe & efficient management of the patient.





Nursing roles in the perioperative setting in Australia include

- Preoperative Patient Assessment Nurse [aka the Preadmission Clinic Nurse]

- Anaesthetic Assistant [performed by an Enrolled or Registered Nurse or an Anaesthetic Technician]

- Instrument Nurse [aka the Scrub Nurse]

- Circulating Nurse [aka the Scout Nurse]

- Post Anaesthetic Care Unit [PACU] Nurse [aka the Recovery Nurse]


Next week, we will look at the role of the perianaesthesia nurse. The realm of perianaesthesia covers the Anaesthetic & PACU Nurse.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: Sutherland-Fraser, S., Osborne, S., & Bryant, K. (2016). Chapter 1: Perioperative Nursing. In Hamlin, L., Davies, M., Richardson-Tench, M., & Sutherland-Fraser, S. (2016). Perioperative Nursing: An Introduction. (2nd ed.). Sydney: Elsevier.

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