Working in healthcare is stressful. We often accept nurse burnout and conflict as part of the job in our daily work where time is tight and emotions can run high.
What difference would it make if perioperative nurses had the tools within reach to handle high-stress situations and communicate better?
This is a question Cera Salamone, BSN, RN, CNOR, OCN, NEBC, and her Periop 101 cohorts worked to solve as a quality improvement project after observing the high stress among OR teams and hearing staff share feelings of burnout and conflict weariness.
Salamone and her team won first-place in the design/concept poster category at AORN Global Surgical Conference & Expo 2019. She continues to champion this project on several fronts to keep staff stress from negatively impacting personal morale and teamwork.
Here she shares four tools her team applied to help staff reduce stress.
This is a dedicated space in our department available to all perioperative staff. It includes a sound machine, noise-cancelling head phones, aromatherapy, low light and massage chairs.
We have seen a marked decrease in stress levels among staff after using the relaxation station. On a scale of 1 to 5 — with 5 being the highest stress level — staff self-rate their stress at an average of 2.6, down from the high 4- to 5-range, after ten minutes in the station.
Posters displayed in different areas of our perioperative department include brief instructions for relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and guided imagery exercises.
We conducted the True Colors personality assessment test in small groups to help team members understand their teammates. This has helped teams under pressure to better understand why someone might react in a certain way and has helped all of us understand ourselves a little better.
Crucial conversations are common in the perioperative environment whether you have to tell a new nurse he or she is doing something wrong or help a surgeon to understand why a room is taking longer. We found that underlying tensions were building when hurt feelings from these crucial conversations were not being addressed.
So, we scripted responses for common crucial conversations that we all try to use in a standardized way. These scripted words immediately signal to the communication recipient what the situation is and how they should respond.
For example, we have strict rules around reducing OR traffic. When someone comes into the room to offer help that is not needed, a nurse may say, “I appreciate your presence in here, but I don’t need your help at this time.”
Salamone adds: “It’s been fun to see our staff embrace healthier communication and the value of self-care through stress relief to be more mindful about how our stress level can influence the ways we interact with each other.”