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Nursing Students Explore Potential Careers in the Operating Room through Firsthand Experience

September 22, 2015

11 Drexel Accelerated Career Entry (ACE) BSN students recently spent a week in the life of an operating room (OR) nurse, completing a full immersion experience in the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.  The hospital approached Donna Trinkaus, MSN, RN, department chair of the ACE BSN Program, to develop a collaborative perioperative experience for the students.   

Trinkaus jumped at the chance.  “We were very interested because statistically, the OR nurse is aging.  It’s one of those populations where people stay until they retire.”  Not many students get to experience the operating room because many nursing schools have removed it from their programs.  There had not been a need in this very specialized area of nursing in some time, however more and more positions are opening. 

The first full immersion experience took place this summer, from June 15-19. Drexel students were involved in every step of patient care – preoperative, intraoperative, and postoperative.  They worked a five-day, 40-hour week in different areas such as the operating rooms, the catheterization lab (where diagnostic imaging equipment is used to visualize the arteries and chambers of the heart) and the short stay unit (where targeted care is provided for patients requiring brief hospitalization). 

“The reason the hospital wanted to initiate this collaboration is because hospital systems  invest time and money in orienting new staff  into the OR, and then they find out the new staff doesn’t really have an interest in the OR so they leave,” said Trinkaus.  “Providing these students the opportunity to be placed in the OR setting gives them an idea of what it’s really like and if it’s something they would like to pursue.  Several of the ACE students were interested.” 

Requirements to participate include a GPA greater than 3.0 and an essay about why they would like to work in an operating room.  There was also a fee of $150 to cover the cost of online learning modules from the Association of Perioperative Registered Nurses.

The success of this program has opened the door to more immersion weeks, with another being planned for December.  “We received such positive feedback from the students I would like to try and incorporate more immersion opportunities for our ACE students.”