Shortage in specialized surgical nurses leads to postponement in some elective surgeries at GNG Site

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Posted Mar 11th, 2008

Niagara, ON - A persistent shortage of specialized surgical nursing staff is forcing the Niagara Health System (NHS) to temporarily reduce operating room time for approximately 20 per cent of pre-scheduled elective surgeries at the Greater Niagara Site in Niagara Falls.

The hospital estimates that elective surgical procedures for approximately 190 patients will be delayed through a six week reduction period when operating room time allowable for elective surgeries will be reduced beginning March 17, 2008 and ending May 2, 2008. Approximately 160 elective patient surgeries are done each week at the site.

"We fully recognize and appreciate the impact that any type of postponement has on our patients and their caregivers. We are doing our best to work with our surgeons and their offices to re-schedule our affected elective patients as soon as possible," explains Anne Atkinson, Vice President of Patient Services with system-wide responsibility for the surgical program.

"Elective surgery is both day surgery and in-patient surgery that is pre-planned and pre-scheduled. It is not determined to be of an emergency nature. I need to stress that all patients who require emergency surgery during this period will be attended to in a timely manner," adds Mrs. Atkinson noting physicians and staff at the GNG Site and across the NHS surgical program have gone above and beyond in recent months to minimize the impact of the nursing shortage to keep operating room services running at full capacity. On a yearly basis, more than 7,500 in-patient surgeries and 21,500 day surgeries are performed at NHS.

All surgeons who perform elective procedures at the GNG site and their respective patients are being affected by this temporary situation. There is protocol to ensure that those elective patients who are impacted during this temporary situation are reassessed should their condition warrant. If a patient's condition changes to require urgent or emergency surgery these individuals are attended to immediately.

"Operating Room (OR) nursing is a highly specialized field and there is a province wide shortage of these trained staff. We currently have four full-time vacancies for registered nurses specializing in surgical services. And while we have been fortunate to hire two experienced surgical nurses for our GNG OR, these individuals will not be available to begin work at the site for a few months," adds Mrs. Atkinson. The NHS will also provide a surgical nursing internship program in partnership with a community college later this year to bolster the number of trained surgical nurses serving within the system.

NHS continues to aggressively recruit for nurses and in recent months has introduced a number of new recruitment tactics. This includes the use of research based recruiters – individuals who cull through job search data bases, social networking forums and referral lists to identify and reach out to potential job candidates.

"Recruitment is a continuous effort as our employees retire or move on to positions outside of the NHS," says Anne Marie Foster, NHS Senior Human Resources Consultant responsible for recruitment. "From November 1, 2007 to March 10, 2008, 23 nurses exited our organization due to retirement or to take positions elsewhere. Through this same time we made great strides bringing 38 new nurses into the NHS."

Niagara Health System