How to Tap into Local Students to Attract Future Periop Nurses


Staffing Your OR: Unique Program Starts with Nursing Students

Consider these strategies to attract nursing students in your community to a career in the OR.

As Adorable Moore sets off for her freshman year at the University of Arizona, the experiences she gained as a high schooler at OR nursing skills day events and an 8-week internship at San Carlos Apache Healthcare Corporation (SCAHC) in Peridot, Ariz. are influencing her career plans.

OR Skills Day at San Carlos Apache Healthcare Corporation. Used with permission.“Healthcare is interesting to me because it is an amazing way to help people and to care for people either in your community or around the world. The possibilities are incredible,” Moore says. “Seeing how much providers care about their patients and how they put the patient first, and knowing all the stuff that happens in the background to ensure a patient’s care is heartwarming and makes me want to become a part of it.”

The health clinic is part of a widening network working to stem the staffing shortage by opening the OR doors to entice potential nurses.

At Chamberlain University College of Nursing and Public Health, last year’s BSN students were the first to experience a new 8-week online/8-week practicum Introduction to Perioperative Nursing course. Co-sponsored by AORN and leveraging content from AORN’s Periop 101: A Core Curriculum™, the didactic portion of the program has been completed by 1,100 nurses, launching them into potential OR nursing careers. 

It’s these kinds of influences that are helping build a solid pipeline of OR nurses. Here’s a quick look at how SCAHC and Chamberlain University, one of the institutions owned by Adtalem Global Education, are sowing success.

For High School Students

It is imperative to the healthcare field to prepare for the ever-growing demand of the most important resource—people – and creating a pathway for the next generation in the industry is essential, according to SCAHC CEO Vicki Began, RN, MN. “We at SCAHC feel our part is to expose our local students to the workforce in hopes it sparks an interest to be part of this growing need while taking care of their people and engaging with their community.” 

Began works closely with her CNO, staff, and Perioperative Nurse Consultant Ellice Mellinger, MS, BSN, RN, CNOR, to continue refining their annual OR nursing skills day activities for local high schoolers. The event engages 50 high school juniors and seniors to follow every step required for a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, including handling minimally invasive surgical equipment, prepping the patient, and even learning about instrument sterilization. “We’ve found that anything hands-on is the most effective way to engage students. They were all especially interested in learning about surgical equipment and prepping a mannequin patient to get a feel for direct patient care,” Mellinger shares.

For College Students

When Adtalem Global Education partnered with AORN to launch the Intro to Perioperative Nursing course at Chamberlain University in January 2022, students in their fourth year of earning their BSN at 13 different U.S. campuses engaged in combined online and practical learning for comprehensive OR education. Upon completion, students earn a digital badge they can display when applying for nursing jobs. The program offers evidence-based, hands-on experience covering OR-specific roles such as scrub and circulator and OR-specific practices such as sterile technique, surgical instrument management and prepping the surgical patient for surgery.

Since launching, 1,100 BSN students have completed the didactic portion of the program, which grows by roughly 15% each 16-week session, according to Danika Bowen, senior director of Institutional Innovation and Strategy at Adtalem’s Chamberlain University. 

After more than a year into the perioperative nursing program, nurse graduate feedback indicates high satisfaction, with 86% of post-program student satisfaction surveys agreeing that the program provided adequate time to learn roles and responsibilities of the perioperative nurse in the clinical settings. 

Dr. Bowen shared this feedback from a student who has completed the Intro to Perioperative Nursing course:

“It has been an unforgettable experience. I can’t wait to be an actual OR nurse. I believe I learned valuable information that will help in my nursing career moving forward.”

And this feedback from a course professor:

“The AORN/Chamberlain program has been an amazing opportunity for these nursing students … We need to open those [OR] doors and welcome in new OR nurses to cross that red line. With this program, students get to really understand the OR, and the why behind what we do—this allows them to better decide if the OR is the place for them.”

Nursing specialty coursework like AORN’s is helping reduce the risk of nurse turnover due to graduates entering a role and then deciding it is not a good fit, Dr. Bowen notes. “We are educating students on what to expect when they start working and helping expand their access to career pathways because it gives pre-licensure nursing students a one-on-one clinical experience to get first-hand practice in the perioperative specialty.”

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