Succession Planning in the OR

Filling OR nursing positions can be difficult, and filling leadership positions within the perioperative department may seem impossible.

“[Succession planning] is something I’m passionate about,” says Barbara Pankratz, MSN, RN, CNOR, Vice President, Perioperative Services, Phoenix Children’s Hospital. “I want to give back in the same way mentors have helped me through the years,” she says, adding that she wants to see her institution continue to thrive.

Pankratz points to an increased focus on work/life balance, especially among those newly entering the field, that is making front line positions difficult to fill. Leadership adds a layer of complexity. At the same time, current leaders are trending older and as many as half are planning to retire by 2028.

She has been considering the problem systematically and has created a perioperative leadership competency tool that can be used for self-assessment or succession planning. Her tool is modified for the perioperative department and is stratified by role. It assesses 11 competencies that are pertinent to each role and can be modified to work for different institutions.

When used as a self-assessment tool, staff members can clearly identify their strengths, as well as areas they may need to work on. If they have a goal, they can identify gaps in what’s required for that role and their current skill set—and so can Pankratz.

“Instead of feeling overwhelmed by how much they need to do to reach the goal, they can create strategies to build up their weaker areas,” she said.

The tool is helpful for leaders as well. “At the end of the day, I have one piece of paper that summarizes the risks and potential likelihood of any open periop leadership positions, as well as the strengths and skill gaps of our current team. Using that tool proactively has been invaluable.”