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COVID spotlighted major challenges in the OR – here’s how to provide a more efficient setting for perioperative clinicians

By Kim Haines

Kim Haines, Director of Perioperative Clinical Programs

The pandemic has significantly evolved the role of nurses worldwide, and in acknowledgement of Perioperative Nurses Week (Nov. 15-21), it’s important to recognize the challenging, yet extremely resilient, times that nurses are facing on the frontlines. During the onset of the pandemic, change and uncertainty quickly became the only constant, and nurses headed into each shift unknowing of that day’s challenges. Early on during the pandemic, many elective surgeries were canceled and perioperative nurses had to quickly adapt and provide care outside of their normal expertise as labor shortages stemmed throughout the industry.

Now, as elective surgeries resume across the country, there is immense pent up demand for care and perioperative nurses must shift back into their operating room expertise. In addition, demand in other areas, for example, preventative medicine, screeched to a halt during the pandemic, with issues that were then put on the backburner and becoming more time sensitive today. And, as a result of the increasing demand and the aftermath of COVID, various inefficiencies and gaps were quickly exposed in the operating room.

One of the biggest challenges exacerbated throughout the pandemic – and effecting every sector of health care – is supply chain disruption. Supply chain operations and labor efficiency are some of the most prominent factors interrupting productivity in the operating room today, according to what we are hearing from the over 150 health systems that Medline serves across the continuum of health care. In addition, through Medline’s new Peri-Op Performance Program, we’ve found that a deep assessment of the entire process – from managing supplies, storing supplies, delivering care and improving patient outcomes – is dire in order to fully understand where the biggest gaps are. Addressing these challenges and having a deeper understanding of the operating room’s dynamic and multi-faceted environment can help better support and allow perioperative nurses focus on what they do best – extraordinary patient care with the right processes, products and systems around to support them.

Here are some solutions to keep in mind:

Supply Bundling

Focusing on the total cost per procedure will accelerate a health system’s overall cost savings goals. While individual category focus on products may sound like a great cost-saving initiative, it can actually be costing your hospital more money and time. Bundling supplies into ready-to-use kits when built methodically not only alleviates the time nurses focuses on handling supplies, but frees them up to focus on patient care and increasing revenue with faster turnover. Clinical team members shouldn’t have to chase down supplies – they should be hyper-focused on providing high quality patient care.

Rethink Your Labor Pool

Some facilities have goals of reverting back to “normal” pre-pandemic numbers. However, we are now navigating a “new normal” and health care systems across the nation need to adapt and apply lessons learned from the pandemic. Working longer hours is not the answer. Shifting the labor pool and getting staff focused on the right activities is key, which includes evaluating your practices around supply management.

Upgrade Your Tech

The operating room is traditionally on the upper end of innovation when it comes to procedure technology. However, when it comes to the business of health care, the operating room has some catching up to do. Automation and data-driven decision-making can not only help clinicians focus less on mundane tasks, but streamline the operations that power your supply chain.

Focus On the Journey

A patient’s journey starts from the moment they seek care. Equipping clinicians with the right tools, resources and establishing an environment where they can execute their tasks is critical for both the overall operating room environment and patient experience. Having a functioning layout and process can provide a better journey to ensure the best outcomes, such as preventing infections and secondary complications.

Paying closer attention to these solutions can help lead to an enhanced operating room environment that ultimately improves patient outcomes, and better supports perioperative clinicians.

– Kim Haines is a registered nurse, certified OR nurse and the Director of Perioperative Clinical Programs. Haines helped develop the company’s Color-Coded, Sterilized Surgical Closure Kit that can help improve outcomes with some high-risk surgeries by communicating to the surgical team the start of the closing process. In addition, Haines runs Medline’s new Peri-Op Performance Program, a program committed to solving challenges in the operating room to deliver better patient outcomes and enhance operations.

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