Over the summer operating room elective

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The University of Indianapolis is offering an operating room nursing elective which is a hands-on learning experience for nursing students thinking about going into the operating room, according to Assistant Professor of Nursing Toni Morris. The elective started in 2019 after a survey said students were interested in taking an operating room course, Morris said. The class is offered during the second summer session and meets once a week for seven weeks for seven to eight hours a day, she said. The students work closely with their clinical partner, Community Health Network, according to Morris. 

“Five days they’re in the classroom and two days, they’re in an actual operating room with an actual nurse,” Morris said.

According to Morris, this elective is unique because they get hands-on experience in an operating room. Students get to sanitize and put in protective gear or “scrub in” into surgery, according to Morris, and sometimes get to hold retractors and sterilely open the patient. She said students are paired with a nurse and learn how to interview patients, position the patient and pass instruments to the surgeon. 

“It’s really [a] pretty amazing experience for an undergraduate to be able to scrub into surgery,” Morris said.

Senior nursing major Alyssa Albitz said students learned how to circulate, scrub and interview patients for their surgery or procedure. She said students taking the class get to practice the skills learned in a real OR. 

“During the course, we were able to take a day for circulating and a day for scrubbing and we were paired with a nurse, and we were able to actually practice those skills in a real OR,” Albitz said.

Senior nursing major Destiny Clark said that this elective allowed her to gain a lot of foundational knowledge. She said she always wanted to be an OR nurse and this elective solidified that. 

“But this helps lay foundational knowledge and it sets you apart if you apply to jobs and stuff,” Clark said. 

Morris said that this elective not only helps the students, but hospitals as well. Sometimes nurses think that they want to work in the operating room and then go through the training and realize that they do not want to, according to Morris, and this elective starts at the student level and allows them to get a feel of working in an operating room. Morris said that it costs the hospitals around $78,000 to fully train OR nurses and that hospitals do not get that money back.

“The burden of training nurses in the OR are largely on the hospitals, because nurses come to the hospital and if they don’t have any OR training then they go through a six to nine month intensive program in the hospital system to learn the specialty of operating room nursing,” Morris said. 

Morris said students are also able to see if they like working in the OR and it saves hospitals time and money. She said that the skills learned during this course apply to other specialties as well. Those could include maternity nursing, the intensive care unit and many more, Morris said. 

“The skills that they learn are very transferable and applicable to multiple other specialties in nursing,” Morris said. 

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