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Recruitment and Retention in the Surgical Suite

By James X. Stobinski

In my recent readings I came across two articles by Ed Hardin on the necessity of talent development and management for supply chain management professionals. Hardin speaks to the difficulty of retaining and developing talent in this field which is central to maintaining the efficiency of an operating room. These articles caught my attention as he used an analogy of developing talent in health care as baseball teams do in their farm systems. While Hardin makes a strong case in his specialty in both the 2019 and 2020 articles these same issues affect a diversity of health professions to include central processing and perioperative nursing.

It is difficult to attract talent to a role that is not well known. Perioperative nursing with its emphasis on technology, equipment and hands-on skill does not fit the typical vision of nursing held by many health care consumers. Although perioperative nursing is one of the largest specialties in nursing, many nursing students know little of the profession. The work of both central processing technicians and supply chain professionals, although vital to the work of surgery, are not high-profile jobs. Often, central processing is an entry level position in a health care facility and on-the-job training is used to orient new staff to this work.

Hardin’s articles mesh nicely with a third article by Kumar and George written for a webpage hosted by the World Economic Forum. That article, “Why skills – not degrees – will shape the future of work,” has a logical connection to Hardin’s writing. Kumar and George assert that as the nature of work changes the right skills will be valued over just academic degrees and how well companies can shift to changing their orientation to skills-based training will factor into their future performance. These authors go on to say that the COVID-19 pandemic offers an opportunity to quickly, perhaps out of necessity, re-shape hiring practices.

These disparate articles now lead us back to central processing technicians, supply chain management staff and perioperative nurses. All these professions work closely together in the operating room, but each now has a similar opportunity to change perspective on education and training processes. That is, to re-examine the value of skills and credentials versus a sole reliance on academic degrees. In central processing and in supply chain management, where degrees are not yet a common requirement, we could consider refining and standardizing education and training to better support these professionals in a dynamic and fast-changing environment.

I do not advocate changing the well-established pre-licensure education courses for nursing that have served the profession well. However, I do think we have an opportunity to look at the education processes which bring registered nurses into the profession of perioperative nursing. The effectiveness of current methods for this lengthy, resource-intensive process have not been extensively studied and compared for effectiveness. This shortfall represents a rich research opportunity, and the Competency and Credentialing Institute Research Foundation (CCIRF) is just now beginning to fund studies in this area.

There is much to study and learn from the facilities that excel in recruiting and retaining staff. This incredibly disruptive pandemic will accelerate change and transition that might have otherwise been years away. One opportunity for nursing during these unsettled times is to begin to examine how we bring nurses into the profession and how we might improve those processes.

Next month, I will share my thoughts on areas that perioperative nursing could address. This period of rapid change does offer openings for those with the wisdom to see the opportunity and the resources to attempt change.


Hardin, E. (2019). A call to … [f]arms! Accessed October 1, 2020 at:
Hardin, E. (2020). Revamping supply chain’s farm system. Healthcare Purchasing News. 44(7). Pg. 60.
Kumar, R. & George, S. (2020). Why skills – not degrees – will shape the future of work. Accessed October 1, 2020 at:

James X. Stobinski, PhD, RN, CNOR, CSSM(E), is Chief Executive Officer at Competency & Credentialing Institute (CCI).



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