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4 Approaches to Taking Calculated Risks During COVID-19

Publish Date: August 12, 2020

Trish SeifertCOVID-19 has brought fear, anxiety and an unknown future, but one silver lining through this pandemic is a chance for risk taking.

“Coronavirus has changed the way we live, work together, and care for patients—and that brings new opportunities all around us,” suggests Patricia Seifert, MSN, RN, CNOR, FAAN.

Wired for Risk

Seifert is known to her colleagues as a successful risk-taker who was an early pioneer in the RN first-assistant role, introduced innovative staffing and has forged new paths for perioperative nurses to bridge clinical and academic pursuits.

She says risk is never a solitary endeavor and has been inspired by many colleagues in all professions who take their own risks, including surgeons such as C. Walton Lillihei, MD—known as the father of cardiac surgery—who published a well-known article on New Ideas and their Acceptance and Marty Makary, MD, MPH, an insightful surgeon who has advocated teamwork among the surgical team and co-authored a widely cited article on Operating Room Teamwork Among Physicians and Nurses that challenges assumptions team members may have.

She also notes that more than a few nurse colleagues who were brave enough to take risks in daily practice have inspired her to be a risk-taker, including Billie Fernsebner, MSN, RN, a perioperative colleague who initiated innovative leadership strategies for staff RNs.

“Perioperative nurses are wired for risk, it’s what we do every day.” So, why not take those risk-management skills to seek out positive changes in our practice? she suggests.

The Right Time for Change

The upheaval periop nurses are experiencing in addressing COVID-19 safety challenges make this an essential time for taking risks to introduce new ways of working.

For example, social distance requirements and restricted hospital access are requiring new communication approaches with patients and families. Also, new preoperative assessment strategies are needed to monitor for infection.

“These aspects of our new normal can lead to learning new skills, growing professionally and building new collaborations with colleagues IF nurses are brave enough to consider new ways of doing things,” Seifert says.

Here are four considerations she shares for taking risks to advance your perioperative practice and tackle COVID-19 hurdles head-on:

  1. Cross Borders
    Make new friends with “knowledge” workers to gain new understanding in areas that are needed today, such as management, change agency, finance, marketing, quality metrics, information technology (IT), and artificial intelligence, Seifert suggests. She says bringing in expert viewpoints from different areas can help you shape a sound approach that will be easier to sell and implement.

  2. Pursue Diverse Perspectives
    Ask a diverse section of colleagues with different ages, skills and areas of expertise about topic areas you are interested in. For example, talk to IT staff members and/or tech-savvy colleagues to learn how you might introduce a virtual communication approach with patients and their loved ones and then share these ideas with an experienced nurse to talk through implementation.

    “Encouraging questions is key!” Seifert says. “Combining the technical knowledge of a more novice nurse with the experiential wisdom of a longtime nurse is a win-win.”

  3. Welcome Push-back
    Actively (but politely) soliciting pushback from colleagues who you know have different and even opposing views can be a good way to identify roadblocks with your approach.

    “You don’t want to be blind-sided as you delve into a project or professional avenue that is new territory,” she cautions. “Think about your situational awareness as you risk a new path or project.”

  4. Seek Out Data and Practical Applications
    Any new idea needs to be investigated to understand the applicable evidence, as well as practical experiences from others to support a new approach.

    At the same time, be cautious NOT to assume the old ways won’t work, Seifert cautions. “The ‘traditional’ way to target a challenge, such as tracking data to reduce infection transmission risks in intraoperative care may very well work. Perioperative nurses can benefit from seeking out ideas from others such as infection preventionists to use an evidence-based approach and scrutinize the evidence carefully in considering new options.”

  5. Look Beyond Direct Patient Care
    Perioperative nursing can expand beyond the care setting when nurses take risks to pursue research studies, publish perspectives in practice journals and consider in-person or virtual meetings with colleagues to share ideas.

    “With distancing making it challenging to talk to colleagues in person, it’s more important than ever to get creative with maintaining connections,” Seifert stresses. “Start a virtual Journal club with colleagues, take a chance with e-mailing an expert you want to mentor with, or connect with a novice nurse who inspires you.”

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