October 19, 2022

Keynote: Leading a Very Different Perioperative Nursing Workforce

By: Lauren McCaffrey

Editor's Note 

Rose Sherman, EdD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, a professor emeritus at Florida Atlantic University, concluded day two of the OR Manager Conference with a packed keynote presentation. Sherman tapped into 3 focus points: COVID-19’s impact on how nurses view their work, the implications of generational shifts, and leadership strategies to successfully lead a turbulent workforce.

Sherman invited the audience to engage in a 5-minute pair-share to discuss relevant workforce challenges as leaders. After the allocated time, Sherman explained the “method to her madness,” noting the shift in the energy when people started talking and sharing. "Everyone here has faced similar challenges," she noted. "You are not alone as a leader. The problems you are having are universal.”

Several interactive exercises followed. The audience was directed to stand up every time something Sherman asked applied to them, and noteworthy moments had to do with the experience level of today's nurses and leaders, as well as the amount of travelers that facilities currently employed. Some of the reveals were unexpected.

“Nurses are reconsidering everything,” Sherman said. She added that in the wake of COVID-19, the feelings of anger coming from nurses can be attributed to how they were mishandled when they were redeployed after ORs shut down. "Most of them could not choose where they went, and they're angry," she said. "Their trust was broken, and we need to rebuild that trust." A show of hands in the room showed most attendees employed nurses who still have strong feelings about that time.

Staff shortages and excessive demand, disrespectful patients and workplace violence, and personal frustration for feeling discouraged with the state of the workforce are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding the strain nurses are under, and it goes double for younger nurses, according to Sherman. “The first year of today's nurses is very, very different from your first year as a nurse,” she stated.

Moving forward, Sherman said we must adjust our leadership strategies to rebuild trust, promote teamwork, and focus on good onboarding experiences. “In times of turbulence, transparent communication is more important than ever,” she said. “We don’t spend enough time listening to what people have to say. The real superpower in leadership is listening." Culture and a sense of community really matters, and every nurse needs a Battle Buddy to stand by their side, she continued.

Sherman concluded by thanking the attendees for stepping up and being leaders, leaving them with an optimistic note that there's light at the end of the tunnel.

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