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OR nurses look to shed ‘invisible’ cloak

The Australian College of Operating Room Nurses has used this year’s Perioperative Nurses Week to cast the oft-invisible work such professionals do into light.

During the celebrations, Dr Paula Foran, ACORN’s education officer, brought up the notion of the invisible nurse. She said due to the medications their patients are given, they rarely remember the care they receive.

In explaining this idea, Jed Duff, president of ACORN, points to a book written by nursing professor Jocalyn Lawler called Behind the Screens: Nursing, somology and the problem of the body.

“In that book, [Lawler] illustrates time and again how nursing work is somewhat hidden,” Duff said. “For perioperative nurses, we say that our work is even more hidden, because not only are we behind the screens, but we're actually behind closed doors and often locked away in the basement of hospitals.”

He added patients don’t necessarily want to know what perioperative nurses do. “They don't really want to think about the surgery they're having too much, so they don't really know what we do as a profession.”

Duff said now is an exciting time for perioperative nursing. “We are going to have a shortfall in nurses, in general in Australia … [but] if we can get junior nurses and students to come through and see what [perioperative nursing is] about, I think we've got a good opportunity to attract them, because it's a really dynamic area.

“Our challenge is to make sure people are aware of what the role is, because not only does the community sometimes not know what we do, but it can be said that we're invisible to nursing students and other nurses as well.

“That's one of our challenges, to try to open up the operating room so that students can come through and participate and learn and then hopefully come back and work with us when they're fully trained.”

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