OR Manager Alert: Perioperative Nursing Facing a Leadership Crisis

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OR Manager provides news and information for perioperative nursing directors and managers, OR business managers, and other decision makers in the surgical suite through the monthly OR Manager publication, the digital OR Reports, the OR Manager Conference, webinars, books, and other publications.

Hospital operating room departments may be facing a shortage of the experienced nurses who manage the surgical suite. The leadership crisis isn’t far off. A fourth of OR directors, with an average age of 55, plan to retire within 3 years, and 65% say they will leave the workforce within 10 years. But only 39% of hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers have a succession plan to replace these perioperative leaders.

In a new survey on succession planning for OR leadership, conducted by the OR Manager publication, nine out of ten OR nurse leaders think a smooth succession when they retire is critical, but they worry about who will take these positions in the future.

“I think we have about a 3-year window before we see the start of intense shortages,” says Rose O. Sherman, EdD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, who collaborated with OR Manager on the survey. She is associate professor and director of the Nursing Leadership Institute, Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton.

“The OR department is the economic engine for many hospitals, generating between 40% and 60% of revenue. Any disruption in the ability to safely staff these areas could have enormous financial, safety, and access implications for the health planning in this specialty area,” Sherman commented.

Half of OR directors surveyed say their organization does not have a succession plan in place for their position. Only a quarter see a strong pool of candidates to replace them, and 60% see the leadership pipeline outside of their organization as inadequate.

A number commented that their staff lacks interest in management. “It is becoming increasingly difficult to find nurses who have the ability and the desire to manage surgical services,” wrote one. It is also difficult to bring the issue to the attention of senior management, several said.

Many say their roles have grown unwieldy and need to be re-evaluated. OR directors manage one of a hospital’s biggest revenue-producing departments with budgets of $10 million to $40 million depending on the size of the hospital or health system. More than two-thirds manage not only the ORs but also outpatient surgery, preadmission testing, endoscopy, sterile processing, and often other departments. Half of OR directors oversee 80 or more staff.

The special December issue of OR Manager will report on the survey results as well as on ideas for rethinking the scope of the OR director’s role. Many wrote in comments on the changes needed, which focused on four major themes: reduce the span of control, compensation and work-life balance, support from the executive team, and leadership development.

Sherman presented the results of the succession survey at the 25th Annual OR Manager Conference, October 24-26, in Las Vegas.

The premier source for information on management of surgical suite for over 27 years, OR Manager provides a monthly publication with an online subscription service, an annual conference, webinars, and other offerings for perioperative nursing directors and other health care professionals involved in the management of the operating room.

For more information about OR Manager and to subscribe, visit http://www.ormanager.com.

About OR Manager
OR Manager, an Access Intelligence company, provides news and information for perioperative directors and managers, OR business managers, and other decision makers in the surgical suite through the monthly OR Manager publication, the digital OR Reports, the OR Manager Conference, webinars, books, and other publications.

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Kristine Keller
OR Manager
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