Perioperative Nurses Week 2020

Perioperative Nurses Week (PNW) is ACORN’s week to celebrate our profession, our people and the essential role we play in the health care equation. What an exciting week it was!

Congratulations to our PNW 2020 winners.

Inspiring colleagues and emerging leaders

To celebrate Perioperative Nurses Week 2020, we invited our members to nominate an inspiring colleague or emerging leader in our profession. Thank you for your nominations, and thank you to the five ACORN members who agreed to share their career journeys and highlights. Here we have five great member stories from five inspirational perioperative nurses who demonstrate passion and expertise within our profession, from those who are just starting out to others who are leading the way through education, research and management. For those considering moving into the perioperative field, we hope these stories provide some real inspiration as to where this career can take you!

Watch Alison Jones's and Erin Wakefield's stories by clicking on the video links, and read all five stories by clicking on the links below.


Read Alison Jones's story Read Erin Wakefield's story


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Read Narelle Luchetta's story Read Siobhan Sullivan's story Read Tammy Burns's story

PNW 2020 poster2020-09-16_PNW-2020_Poster-A4-colour_FINAL

Promote perioperative nursing by displaying posters around your workplace.

Posters are available in two sizes (A3 or A4) and in colour or black and white.

A3 color poster A3 black and white poster
A4 color poster A4 black and white poster








Member stories

Narelle Luchetta: Changing lives through bariatric surgery

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Narelle Luchetta is a perioperative enrolled instrument and circulating nurse and bariatric resource nurse at North Park Private Hospital in Melbourne.

What are your career highlights so far?

There are so many small moments that I consider to be great privileges and highlights of my career. My first highlight happened in 2017, when I was awarded an International Nurses Day award, selected by my peers and mentors. It was such a brilliant moment for me. I felt supported, considered and very much appreciated. It showed that with hard work and continuous professional development I could achieve things outside the expected.

Highlight number two is definitely the opportunities I have had to work with dedicated surgeons to help others. In the course of the Perioperative Education at Sea Cruise Conferences I have attended, my colleagues and I were exposed to a different world of medicine and health care. Seeing operating theatres in countries like Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu really opened my eyes to a need around the world. I jumped at the chance to be part of the pro bono surgeries my hospital facilitated. Under the guidance of one of our dedicated plastic surgeons, Mr David Chong, we collaborated with an organisation called Children’s First Charity, which supports children to come to Australia for surgeries. It was inspiring to be part of the team that repaired a young boy's severe cleft pallet and a little girl's significant facial cleft. To make a difference to these children's lives was very rewarding.

My third career highlight is all about firsts. We have achieved many firsts as a perioperative team at North Park and along the way I have definitely achieved many firsts myself, including finding my passion for bariatric surgery. I love the anatomy of the upper gastrointestinal system and the delicate, complex instruments and equipment we get to use. Our team facilitated the first Victorian endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty, led by general and bariatric surgeon Mr Kiron Bhatia. We went on to facilitate the first robotic solo assist surgery in an Australian hospital, which led to a team research project with abstracts completed for the International Federation of Surgery for Obesity (IFSO). Our abstract was accepted for presentation at the IFSO conference 2019 in Madrid, Spain. It was an absolute thrill to present at one of the biggest bariatric surgery conferences in the world.

What is your advice to anyone considering a career in perioperative nursing?

To nursing students I would say: don't think that perioperative is an area you will never get into. There are many foundation programs, introductory programs and graduate years in perioperative nursing.

For nurses in other areas: if you are looking for your next challenge and want to expand your clinical practice, consider perioperative nursing. Join professional bodies, read widely and volunteer for opportunities. You will be amazed at the things you will see and do in your perioperative nursing career.

For new periop nurses: find an area you love and master it. It’s good to have a solid foundation in all areas of perioperative nursing but it’s also important to solidify your speciality with time and experience. Value the experienced staff and don’t be fearful of asking questions. Ask the surgeons, the anaesthetists – they are happy to share their knowledge as it always leads to better patient outcomes.

For scrub nurses: never underestimate the value of situational awareness and non-verbal communication. You will become experts at this and it will guide your practice for many years to come.

What does International Year of the Nurse and Midwife mean to you?

It is a dedicated and conscious acknowledgment of the sacrifices, contributions, achievements and advancements that all nurses and midwives, past and present, have been responsible for. It is critical to collectively acknowledge the importance of these roles, to showcase what we bring to the health care community and what we have contributed to society.

Many nurses and midwives do not know or realise how truly valuable their efforts are. They might not get recognised for the impacts they have made. It is nice to feel that your hard work is valued and it’s even more rewarding to feel the support of your communities behind you.

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Siobhan Sullivan: True passion for the perioperative profession


Siobhan Sullivan has worked as a perioperative nurse for more than 18 years, having begun her graduate year of nursing in theatre at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne in 2002. She holds a Bachelor of Nursing, Postgraduate Certificate of Perioperative Nursing and a Diploma of Leadership and Management. She is currently nurse unit manager, day of surgery admissions (DOSA) and endoscopy at Bendigo Health.

What inspired you to pursue a career in perioperative nursing?

The perioperative journey for a patient, from the moment they are booked for theatre until the time they are discharged home, is fascinating. It is also very rewarding, when you're part of a process that improves the outcomes and health of a patient. I love being able to advocate for people at their most vulnerable moments, including being their voice when they cannot speak.

I am passionate about all areas of the perioperative journey, including pre-admission, admission, operating and procedural theatre, anaesthetics, recovery and discharge. Perioperative nursing is the specialty that encompasses all of these areas. Studying this stream helps me to be the best nurse that I can be for my patients, my community, and as a leader for my team.

What does International Year of the Nurse and Midwife mean to you?

To me this year means acknowledging our profession and how far it has come, where we are now as a group of unique and recognised professionals. We not only deliver evidence-based care, we also strive to reach the standards of health care that our patients and communities deserve and are entitled to – even when our nurses and midwives are challenged and under unbelievable pressures.

Nurses don’t often ask for recognition or acknowledgement. That’s why it is so important that we, as leaders in our profession, make an effort to acknowledge the care and service given by all nurses and midwives – even more so throughout this pandemic we are currently facing – because they deserve it.

What would be your advice to anyone considering a career in perioperative nursing?

My advice would be, that if they feel this is the right path, hold on for the ride because this will take you wherever you want to go. There are so many opportunities and possibilities in perioperative nursing, no day is ever the same. It is a wonderful opportunity to be the patient advocate, in its truest sense. It is an honour.

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Tammy Burns: Following the perioperative nursing call

Tammy IMG_2955Tammy Burns is the nurse manager, operating theatres at John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle. She began her career as an enrolled nurse (EN) and embodies the concept of 'lifelong learning', recently completing her Master of Nursing at University of Wollongong and undertaking a Master of Health Services Leadership through University of Tasmania.

What inspired you to pursue a career in perioperative nursing?

As an enrolled nurse I was drawn to roles where I could make a positive impact on a patient's hospital stay. I worked in aged care, medical nursing, paediatrics and day surgery. I have always been passionate about patients who were at their most vulnerable, to ensure they are being respected and cared for. I was offered a secondment to work as an anaesthetics nurse in the periop team at Wollongong Hospital and from there I really found my place to care for the most vulnerable.

I followed my passion by completing the first NSW TAFE course for ENs in perioperative nursing and found a real calling in all things periop. I was featured in the local newspaper as a second generation perioperative nurse who, as an EN, was advancing in a career that others may have thought was out of reach.

My mum is an amazing mentor and inspiration to me. Although I had always joked that her field of nursing was perioperative while mine was mental health, when I found my passion for all things perioperative, I knew why she loved what she did. She always instilled in me 'the patient must come first'.

I went on to complete my Bachelor of Nursing through University of Western Sydney, before joining Ramsay Health's Figtree Private Hospital perioperative team. I found NSW OTA at this time and was the chair of zone 7. The mentors in this group were inspiring and amazing advocates for perioperative nursing.

The thing with the perioperative community is, when you find your fit, there are so many wonderful people in our professional bodies who motivate us to be great at what we do that it makes sense to commit to our professional bodies’ ongoing commitment to the area.

What do you love about coming to work each day?

The camaraderie, the challenges we all face together and how, as a team, we can all improve our patients' stay.

For me to be a compassionate, kind leader who is present and active with my team, I know I can improve the health and wellbeing of our nursing staff and the patients. This is my goal each day, to make a small difference to someone and be kind.

What does Perioperative Nurses Week mean to you?

It’s about celebrating the achievements we all work towards every day. It’s about giving the amazing perioperative nurses a voice to showcase their exceptional care and the leading models of care they provide.

Where to next? What are your career aspirations?

My goal is to continue to grow professionally as a leader. I want to work with teams who are compassionate and be a role model who my colleagues feel proud to work 'with' not 'for'. My aim is for everyone to work together, for each other and the patient.

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Erin Wakefield: Embracing opportunities to grow, learn and share

Erin 8x10Erin Wakefield is an educator at Monash University. From Alice Springs to North Kenya to Melbourne, Erin Wakefield's career journey spotlights the incredible variety on offer to perioperative nurses.

How long have you worked in perioperative nursing?

My career began with a transcultural nursing rotation to Alice Springs as an undergraduate. I was excited to try theatre! I loved it, and was supported by the most amazing group of nurses to have an exceptional introduction to this unique specialty, in a unique location.

I completed my graduate year at Mitcham Private Hospital and, after a couple of years on the wards, I knew the theatre life was for me. I travelled, first back to Alice Springs, where I completed my graduate certificate by correspondence at La Trobe University and had a wonderful beginning to my perioperative career. I also worked in the trauma team in Townsville before returning home to Melbourne.

I then travelled to North Kenya to work as a theatre manager with the International Committee of the Red Cross. We cared for Sudanese war wounded, but also provided care for the local populations. It was a wonderful and career-defining experience; I worked with an international team and learned a lot. A large part of my role was to educate patients on the care they would receive in theatre. Many patients had previously had no access to primary health care, let alone an operation. We worked hard to decrease the fear associated with this, and I discovered a passion for empowering people through education. I also discovered the power of simulation by using a model pelvis to demonstrate the process of a caesarian.

On return to Melbourne I took an ANUM role in Maroondah theatre, where I stayed until I had my babies. When they were young, it was very helpful to work in the private system, due to set shifts!

Eventually I was delighted to take on a clinical nurse educator role at Eastern Health, where I furthered my twin passions: simulation education and safe learning environments. I completed my Masters in Advanced Nursing with a minor thesis, focusing on these two areas.

My career has taken another turn now. As well as working clinically, I have begun work on my PhD and am teaching nursing students at Monash Nursing and Midwifery, where I also work as a research assistant. I love that I have been able to combine my passions for perioperative education, empowerment through education, creation of a safe learning environment and research to shine a spotlight on what we actually do as theatre nurses. I feel that the way forward for me is in research, to shine a light on our role, provide solutions to issues, and to empower perioperative nurses.

What do you love about coming to work each day?

Working in the tertiary sector, I love it when undergraduate students ask me about working in theatre. I know that the range of periop preregistration placements is growing smaller, and I am proud to do my part to showcase the unique and varied roles we have in providing perioperative care. I hope I make a difference to them by being a kind and enthusiastic educator! Even after all these years, I love being able to make a difference in the patient’s perioperative journey. The thing that keeps me studying – and the PhD journey is a long road ahead – is that the study will hopefully be of help to improve the future of perioperative nursing education.

What does Perioperative Nurses Week mean to you?

To me, periop nurses week is a chance for the work we do to be seen, and for us to celebrate what it is that makes our roles unique. There is no nursing job quite like it! I think it is also a great chance to say thank you to all the nurses who have guided me along the way – the team at Alice Springs Hospital who let me do I&D cases by myself and shared in my excitement as a novice, the amazing nurses who willingly shared their trauma knowledge when I joined the ‘fast track’ team at The Townsville Hospital (now Townsville University Hospital) and the managers and mentors I have had along the way – especially my NUM at Angliss and now my inspirational supervisors and managers at Monash Uni.

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Alison Jones: Inspired to switch careers

Alison Jones crop8x10Alison Jones is a registered nurse at Southern Highlands Private Hospital in NSW. She began her career as a teacher, but her son's ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgery inspired a change in direction.

What inspired you to pursue a career in perioperative nursing?

I was a high school teacher for seven years before having a break to raise my children. When my youngest was nearing school age, I began preparations to recommence teaching.

At that time my son was scheduled to have ENT surgery, and I stayed with him overnight at the hospital. At each stage of the surgical process, the nursing staff were amazing; they helped to keep both of us comfortable and relaxed, and kept my son safe. When I was called to recovery to see him, he was eating an iceblock and smiling. I chatted with the recovery nurse about her job, and she was truly inspiring!

After my experience in the perioperative environment, with the wonderful care we received at every stage of the process, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was something I needed to pursue. I looked into perioperative nursing and discovered the diversity of nursing roles and career pathways available and was hooked! So, in my mid-30s, I went back to university and have never looked back.

What have been your top three career highlights?

While my nursing career has only just begun, I have a few experiences I would consider career highlights:

  1. In my final year as a nursing student, I went to Cambodia as a volunteer nurse. This was a very humbling experience, and it opened my eyes to the ways in which nurses can really make a difference across the world.
  2. Towards the end of my graduate year, I researched and presented a continuing professional development session for my colleagues titled ‘Depression and physical illness’, exploring how depression can influence illness, healing and recovery. The session stimulated lots of discussion and generated some great ideas. I really enjoyed both researching and presenting, and was pleased that my colleagues were engaged and found the session informative.
  3. Being able to scrub/scout relatively independently and confidently in simple cases is a massive career highlight for me at this point in time. I know I still have a huge amount of learning ahead of me, but it is exciting to feel like I am really starting to realise the goals I have set for myself.

What do you love about coming to work each day?

I love the team dynamic in the perioperative environment. Every day I work closely alongside a team of professionals who come together to ensure the best outcome for each surgical patient, and all members of the team are valued for the role they play in this process. I work with a great team of people who are welcoming and supportive.

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