By Sonya Osborne
“Keeping up with changes in practice and staying ahead to keep your professional knowledge up to par is no simple task”.
I recently had the pleasure of joining almost 6,000 perioperative nurses at the 64th Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) Global Surgical Conference & Expo, the largest education and networking conference of perioperative nurse professionals in the world. The conference was held from April 1st-5th, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts USA. Over five full days of education, delegates could attend sessions covering a range of topics, including ambulatory, clinical, education, professional development, political action, research & evidence-based practice, leadership & management – and this year, a new track targeting the growing global audience. This conference also has the largest industry trade display, covering 345,000 sq. ft. of the Boston Convention Centre, demonstrating the latest technology and products, as well as providing on-the-floor continuing education sessions. The conference theme this year was The Power of One.
The Global Summit, on Day 1, brought together world leaders in perioperative patient care from Australia, Brazil, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Netherlands, Slovenia, Sweden, Taiwan, as well as representatives from the International Federation of Perioperative Nurses. The international audience was united by how much of our experiences are shared by our colleagues around the world and compelled us to connect more and learn from each other.
The day started with presentations on experiences with the recent terrorist attacks in Belgium and France. While sobering to recall the events, the lessons learned about trauma and disaster preparedness was invaluable, particularly when hearing the stories of how staff were able to quickly mobilise because they had developed and practice well-designed national disaster and trauma plans that filtered down to specific actions as the regional level. The afternoon sessions focused on two recurrent issues for surgical patients – prevention of pressure injury and experiences with surgical site infection bundles. The day at the Summit rounded out with a “solutions” roundtable; where delegates discussed other pressing issues but shared solutions with international colleagues. Another key part of the Conference was the International Lounge for weary overseas delegates could drop in for a comfortable rest and morning or afternoon tea – with fruit, coffee and tea on tap all day.
I was particularly interested in attending the many sessions targeting the hot topic of retained surgical items – estimated to occur in 1 in 5500 surgical operations per year in the United States (US). A retained surgical item occurs when a surgical item – usually a sponge, gauze swab, needle or instrument – is unintentionally left behind in a patient. Although rare, based on the published literature derived mainly from incident reports and public liability claims in the US, retained surgical items can result in dramatic consequences for patients, clinicians and the health system. The problem is that we can only estimate from the publically available data. We know there can be a delay in discovering retained surgical items days, weeks, months, or years after the original operation, usually following the development of patient symptoms. Attendance at these sessions provided more insight into the global concern of the problem and solutions being trialled around the world aimed at prevention. Hearing the stories from around the globe also substantiated my current program of research trying to more accurately estimate the risk.
My own contribution to this gathering was to get the audience talking about the importance of not only evidence-based practice but also to go the next step in insuring evidence based practice changes are implemented in a way that increase the chances of sustainable implementation – using implementation science as a guide. My international collaborator and co-presenter, A/Professor Victoria Steelman and tag-teamed to present on Strategies for Infusing Evidence-based Practices, where we talked about how nurses have historically made decisions about patient care which has resulted in the use of outdated practices. Empowering nurses to provide excellent patient care requires that nurses use the best evidence available to design care delivery and make clinical decisions that result in the best outcomes. But, the evidence is rapidly evolving and requires continuous questioning of current practices and attention to the latest research findings. We presented some examples of evidence-based practices that have been inadequately adopted along with strategies to infuse these evidence-based practices using an implementation science approach.
I always look forward to attending this premier specialist conference because of the high quality of the education sessions, the invaluable opportunities for networking with like-minded health professionals and researchers around the world, and, of course, the high level of energy and passion for safe patient care. The AORN World Surgical Conference & Expo never fails to re-energise my practice as a researcher in the field and bring me a satisfying sense of connectedness to the clinical interface – all too important to ensure my research is clinically relevant.