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The Oak December 2023

Last month we celebrated Perioperative Nurses Week (PNW) 2023 with fun and engaging activities focusing on self-care and the theme of HEART – happiness, empathy, asking, rest, thanks. I would like to thank our sponsors, Bravura Education, for sponsoring the ‘Ask’ day and 3M for sponsoring the ‘Thanks’ day, and Wellness Footwear, who generously donated gifts for the ‘Rest’ day.

I also want to acknowledge and thank Multigate for their ongoing sponsorship of the G.L.U.E. Awards. Congratulations to Kelly Toohill, Machele Payne and Lucy Devenish, the winners of the 2023 G.L.U.E. awards

Thanks also to Martine Beaumont and Elaina Mullery. Martine is a psychotherapist and CEO of Select Wellness, and hosted two webinars for us: ‘Three essential mindsets to support a happier you’ and ‘Taking breaks – the best tool to improve your wellbeing’. Elaina is a registered nurse and founder of The Happy Nurse, and presented the webinar ‘Heart-centred self-care’. These webinars are available to view on our website.

And congratulations to the daily award winners – Kindra Bradley from Wollongong Perioperative Department (Heart day), Joanne Candy from St George Hospital (Empathy day), Sally Knight from Epworth Eastern (Ask day), Glaiza-Joe Lopez from Bankstown Hospital (Rest day) and Nadine Quennell from East Regional Hospital, Bega (Thanks day).

Phyllis Davis AMI am delighted to announce the wonderful Phyllis Davis AM has agreed to present the Judith Cornell Oration at the 2024 conference. We received a lot of positive feedback at the Perioperative Leadership Summit about the importance of this presentation and am pleased we will have the opportunity to hear Phyllis speak again.

Diane Harapin, CEO

Introducing our new Education officer – Angela Jarkey


Angela has been a dedicated perioperative nurse for over 15 years. On finishing a clinical placement in operating theatres as an undergraduate nurse, Angela knew that perioperative nursing was where she wanted to be. She completed a perioperative new graduate year at St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, in 2008. She remained there in the instrument/circulating role, eventually becoming a clinical nurse specialist and later transitioning into the role of nurse educator.

On completing seven years at St Vincent’s Hospital, life took Angela to Melbourne where she was nurse unit manager of the operating suite at Norfolk Private Hospital.

After three years in Melbourne, Angela was missing her family and friends so returned to Sydney and to perioperative education. She remained at Canterbury Hospital for the next six years before transferring to St George Hospital Perioperative Services.

Angela describes herself as an eternal learner and a passionate educator who is always eager to gain new knowledge and understanding. She has a Graduate Certificate in Perioperative Nursing and is currently completing a Master of Advanced Nursing, majoring in quality and safety. She has also completed a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment and has an Executive Certificate in Event Management.

When not working or studying, Angela adores the time she spends with her husband and two young children and looks forward to her weekly ballet class.

Angela will join the ACORN team on Monday 11 December 2023.

Reflections on ACORN’S inaugural mentoring program

In 2023, ACORN piloted a leadership development program with a difference. The Perioperative Mentorship Program (PMP) focused on developing leadership skills in the context of leading innovation, change and transformation. There are compelling reasons to place emphasis on the development of innovative leadership skills. Research shows that, more than any other factor, it is the quality of leadership that determines the performance of an organisation.

Over the five months of the PMP, the cohort went on a learning journey where they challenged themselves to think differently, do differently and solve pressing workplace problems. The intention was to empower nurses to be confident innovators and change agents. As one participant noted, the PMP ‘has been a great opportunity for development because often periops don’t get time to invest in themselves’.

Program design and learning outcomes

The design of the program took participants through three stages of leadership development:

  • self-leadership
  • team-leadership
  • innovation leadership.

Each stage iteratively brought new opportunities to shift mindset, evolve practice and create engagement through a series of mini-projects culminating in a major innovation project and presentation.

The learning in the program took place via multiple channels including on-line videos, workshops and webinars; coaching and mentoring sessions; prescribed readings; inspirational messages from ACORN’s board members; opportunities to share experiences with other participants; and customised activities designed by the participants themselves which ensured the learning was highly contextualised, relevant and embedded. The participants were in different locations and across different states which meant that they all gained insights into other perioperative nursing contexts. Hearing others’ stories was revelatory for some who said that it brought a deeper sense of belonging to a wider community of professionals facing similar challenges – no matter where they were.

Along the way, the participants experienced many ‘ah-ha’ moments about themselves and how they lead – what their teams needed from them and how they could contribute to making their hospitals even more effective with better patient outcomes. The key learnings were:

  • to manage change in a way that encourages staff cooperation and engagement
  • to help their teams to feel their contributions were valued
  • better understanding of the skills needed to become a ‘leader of the future’
  • to give team members ownership of projects and responsibilities, as this increases motivation and feelings of empowerment
  • the value of breaking complex projects into manageable bites and building on small wins.

Program outcomes and opportunities for improvement

Everyone in the program worked with extreme time constraints, heavy workloads and unexpected challenges that came out of left-field. This is why their achievements in the program were so inspiring! The projects they undertook addressed a variety of challenges such as redesigning pre-admission processes to save time and resources, enhancing communication and team work between surgeons and perioperative nurses, building a positive workplace culture to retain and attract staff, enhancing clinical handovers, and using self-care to address burn-out among perioperative nurses.

PMP 2023 was a pilot program and, as such, offered opportunities for improvement. Future programs could be improved by deploying technology more effectively, smoothing out certain administrative processes, and further leveraging shared experiences and the expertise of ACORN leaders.

In summary, the PMP offered a unique development opportunity that challenged and inspired perioperative nursing leaders to further embrace their role as positive change agents. As one of the participants insightfully noted ‘all leaders within all levels of our profession need to focus on deciding how we wish to go forward as perioperative nurse leaders’. The statement reminds us that the future of the profession is in the hands of the current and emerging leaders. How leadership challenges are negotiated today will influence the status and strength of the profession tomorrow.

Congratulations to the graduates of the first PMP!

Dr Irena Yashin-Shaw

Program creator and facilitator

About Dr Irena Yashin-Shaw

Dr Irena is a master educator, academic and author with a PhD in creative problem-solving and a Master of Adult Education. She currently fulfils a number of roles including Visiting Global Professor at The Ohio State University College of Nursing, Adjunct Fellow and Advisory Board Member at Griffith University Business School, CEO of the Global Intrapreneurs Institute, and Executive in Residence for Franklin University, Columbus, Ohio.

With a career dedicated to empowering people to liberate their potential, she has spent years developing and delivering programs such as the Innovative Leaders Mentoring Program which was adapted for ACORN into the PMP. She can be contacted at

Supporting our colleagues in PNG: ACORN’s clinical support role in the redevelopment of ANGAU Memorial Hospital in Papua New Guinea

The Australian Government has funded the redevelopment of the ANGAU Memorial Hospital (AMH) in Lae, Papua New Guinea (PNG) and ACORN was engaged to advise on all aspects of perioperative care to enable the commissioning of the new operating room suite (ORS) and central sterilising unit (CSU). This is an interim report on ACORN’s role in the project and follows on from an article published in Journal of Perioperative Nursing (JPN) in spring 2022 that describes the beginning of the project and the progress to date.

The project began in February 2021 with a completion date of 31 December 2021. However, the surge of COVID-19 within PNG saw the project timelines extend into 2024. The project will be completed in June 2024 and a second article in JPN will report on the final outcomes. The new central sterilising unit opened on Wednesday 26 April 2023. Then, two and a half weeks later, on 12 May (International Nurses Day), the operating theatres opened with both the CSU and two of the four operating theatres operational. Two members of the ACORN Perioperative Clinical Advisory Team (PCAT), Team Leader Ruth Melville and Sonia Griffiths, have completed two in-country visits over the past 12 months, the most recent being from March to June this year.

Four key deliverables were identified – developing a monitoring and evaluation framework, implementing standards for practice, developing nursing management guidelines and processes, and developing and implementing standard operating procedures. Work on the monitoring and evaluation framework continues. Publication of the PNG Perioperative Standards for Practice (PNGPSP) has been completed, and it has been endorsed by the AMH Board of Management Safety and Quality Committee and by the PNG Perioperative Nurses Society (PNGPNS). It has also been submitted to the PNG National Department of Health for national endorsement.

Support and mentoring of nursing management and leadership and ongoing education with all staff is being conducted during the in-country visits and via weekly online meetings. The Kumul Helt Skul (PNG Health School) education program, consisting of nine perioperative courses delivered via an app, provides professional development training for hospital staff and has been completed by the majority of ORS and CSU staff. The courses continue to be used as refreshers and for orientation of new staff.

The PNGPSP and CSU safety operating procedures are in use to inform best practice. Orientation manuals were created for the ORS and CSU that introduced an orientation checklist, a seek and find activity and a work self-assessment tool. The rosters were reviewed, and recommendations made for increased staffing for CSU which included weekly daily staffing allocations for the work areas within the new CSU. Auditing tools have been introduced that include a perioperative patient journey audit for safe perioperative care as measured against the PNGPSP and monthly cleaning audits for the ORS and CSU. 

The second and final report, to be published in JPN in 2024, shall fully describe the outcomes and results of evaluation activities.

Carollyn Williams, Ruth Melville, Elinor Radke and Sonia Griffiths

ACORN Perioperative Clinical Advisory Team




The standard practice in Australia is to restrict family visitation for adult patients in the first-stage Post Anaesthesia Care Unit (PACU). While research on this topic in the Australian context is lacking, there is international evidence, particularly from the United States of America (USA), that demonstrates benefits to both patients and family members. These benefits include high satisfaction rates, reduced anxiety and an improvement in patient haemodynamic markers, pain and nausea. The facilitation of family visitation in the PACU may also enhance the delivery of not only person-centred care but also patient- and family-centred care. Despite this, the literature documents that nursing concerns regarding family visitation are common. These may include concerns about impacts on workload, patient privacy, infection control risks, physical space limitations and undesirable family responses. While these issues may indicate barriers to implementation, the literature also demonstrates that organisational guidelines and adequate resourcing may enable the successful implementation of family visitation in the first-stage PACU. This discussion paper explores the benefits of and possible risks associated with family visitation in the first-stage PACU, and hopes to inspire readers to consider implementing family visitation in the PACU as a quality improvement or research project.

Read full article

ACORN’s work is supported by seven state and territory perioperative nursing associations (the local associations or LAs).

LA President reports

While each of the associations retains its own integrity and independence, together we find strength in unity to provide professional leadership in perioperative practice and the advancement of safe, quality perioperative nursing care for Australians.

The ACORN office will be closed
from Friday 22 December 2023 to Monday 8 January 2024.

The ACORN staff and directors wish you a safe and relaxing festive season.