Here is an interesting article from Nurse.com that addresses another aspect of the looming nursing shortage as our numbers age and retire. This article focuses on surgical nurses, but any specialty could be written about in much the same way. The median age of the nursing workforce is now late 40’s to mid 50’s. These are people who will be looking to retire at some point in the not too distant future. Who will be replacing them?
Please read the whole article and then come back here and let me hear your stories. We all have frustrations and can share personal experiences. Let’s talk.
When 55-year-old Jim Stobinski, RN, MSN, CNOR, a seasoned Navy OR nurse, started working at a civilian hospital three years ago, he experienced a form of culture shock. He couldn’t ignore the fact that nurses in the civilian OR were noticeably older than his colleagues in the Navy. The discrepancy was so significant that Stobinski started studying age distribution data from the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses and compared it to data from the Navy. As he analyzed the information, Stobinski became aware the nation may be at risk of an impending shortage of well-trained RNs in the OR.
“We are in uncharted territory,” says Stobinski, director of surgical services at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Boise, Idaho. “Our OR nursing workforce is getting older, the demand for surgery is increasing, and we have to bring new nurses into the profession to stay viable.”
Luckily, organizations such as the AORN and hospitals throughout the country are pioneering strategies to not only recruit and train younger nurses into the OR specialty, but also to retain older nurses who have the coveted experience from which the next generation of nurses can benefit.
According to 2010 membership data from the AORN, which has more than 40,000 members, the average age of perioperative nurses in the organization is 52. That is five years older than the average age of licensed RNs as a whole, according to data from the 2008 National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses. About 48% of AORN’s members are over 50, and only 7% are under 31. The organization has yet to determine whether this data is representative of OR nursing as a whole. The AORN hopes to conduct a survey with perioperative directors throughout the country in the near future to determine whether their membership data currently reflects the age demographics in ORs nationwide; however, according to the 2004 National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses, there are more than 179,000 perioperative nurses in the U.S.
“The organization is concerned about these statistics,” says Anne Marie Herlehy, RN, DNP, CNOR, AORN president-elect and administrative director for perioperative and cardiovascular services at Alexian Brothers Medical Center in Elk Grove Village, Ill. “We wonder what it will mean for the profession in 10 years.”
One of the main reasons ORs lack younger RNs is related to changes in nursing schools, explains Herlehy. In the past, nursing students spent more time in the OR during clinical rotations, but now students often spend one day at most in the OR.
“Now that the nursing curriculum is so packed, there is less opportunity for nurses to get exposed to surgery,” Herlehy says. “Few schools even offer it as an elective course.”
To get the word out, AORN representatives attend events sponsored by the National Student Nurses Association, where they run an exhibit and talk to student nurses.
The AORN also offers a course called Periop 101: A Core Curriculum, a six-month program hospitals can use to train new perioperative nurses. The program includes reading, clinical assignments and suggested videos. Hospitals tailor the program to include mentoring, hands-on clinical experience and time with a preceptor. Students earn a certificate of completion for the class, which is open to new grads and experienced nurses who want to transfer to the OR.
Not only are hospitals offering this course, but now one Florida college is responding to the high demand. In January, Keiser Career College will begin offering Periop 101 at the Miami Lakes campus. After completing the course, nurses can go on to apply for OR jobs at the hospitals of their choice. When Terry Schmidt, RN, BSN, director of education at Keiser Career College,[…read the rest of the article…]