AORN Addresses Critical Shortage of OR Nurses

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Partnership with Chamberlain University prepares students for a career in surgery.


The Association of periOperative Nurses (AORN) has teamed up with Chamberlain University, which has the largest nursing school in the U.S., to develop a four-month educational program aimed at increasing the number of surgical nurses available to work in hospitals and surgery centers across the country.

AORN and Chamberlain say the online training module in perioperative nursing, which will be offered at no extra cost to students enrolled in Chamberlain’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program beginning in early 2022, will help fill operating rooms with qualified nurses at a critical time. AORN says 20% of the nation’s surgical nurses will reach retirement age in the next five years. Additionally, it can cost up to $120,000 to train a new perioperative nurse. That significant financial burden for facilities is only expected to grow if the current shortage of nurses continues as surgical volumes steadily increase.

"Hospitals and ambulatory centers are significantly challenged to recruit nurses with the necessary qualifications to work in the perioperative setting," says AORN’s CEO and Executive Director Linda Groah, MSN, RN, CNOR, NEA-BC, FAAN. "This is due, in part, to limited perioperative education in nursing schools and nursing students not being exposed to the many career opportunities that can be realized in the surgical suite. We are very grateful to Chamberlain for being part of the solution."

Leaders in the perioperative field were thrilled to hear about the announcement. "This sounds like a phenomenal initiative," says Shakeel Ahmed, MD, founder and CEO of Atlas Surgical Group, the largest organization of privately owned surgery centers in the Midwest. "Surgical nurses are among the most highly skilled in the nursing profession, and training them adequately has long been ignored. It takes years to properly train a surgical nurse and another few years for them to get truly acclimated to life in the OR."

Cherokee Gonzalez, RN, BSN, director of Florida Medical Clinic, which operates nearly 50 facilities in the greater Tampa area, says the new partnership and educational platform will help facilities experiencing nursing crunches. "Competition is fierce for candidates with the right set of skills," she says. "Finding that person takes a lot of time and energy."

Students who complete the non-credit bearing program will receive an educational badge in perioperative nursing and be eligible for a concentrated clinical rotation in the surgical departments of participating health systems. Chamberlain will begin offering the program at campuses in the Chicagoland area, Atlanta and New Orleans, with plans to expand it to all 23 of the school’s campuses across the country.

"We are confident that this partnership with AORN will assist in providing solutions to the challenges facing healthcare systems across the nation,” says Karen Cox, PhD, RN, FACHE, FAAN, president of Chamberlain. “There is a need to increase awareness of perioperative nursing opportunities because, until now, undergraduate nursing studies provide limited exposure to the specialty. With this program, Chamberlain will graduate nurses who are both interested in and prepared to pursue additional specialty training for the perioperative setting."

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