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The Oak May 2024

ACORN has been extremely active across both corporate activities and advocacy areas. As ACORN Board Chair, I was privileged to attend the Asia Safe Surgical Implant Consortium in Korea early in April. The focus was on patient safety and the importance of adhering to evidence-based, best practice standards in relation to implant management and loan instrumentation. I was humbled by the hospitality and collegiality shown to us by our Korean colleagues, and the interaction between all key stakeholders, including Hong Kong–based Professor Seto and the World Health Organisation, sterilisation specialists from Australia and New Zealand, and surgeons and perioperative nurse leaders from across Asia. Engaging in robust conversation related to safe patient practices, the requirements of our governing standards (e.g. Standards Australia and ACORN standards for reprocessing re-usable medical devices), that hold us to an extremely high standard within our own country, and the reality of rapid change across the health sector, reminded me what an amazing legacy ACORN has with our evidence-based standards and just how relevant they still are to maintain safe patient care.

With the expansion of technology, changes to procedures, increased use of robotics and capabilities of artificial intelligence on the horizon, maintaining best-practice principles is essential for limiting hospital acquired infections. Our hospital sterilising departments are often understaffed and/or undervalued, and yet their attention to detail in the care of our instrumentation is paramount to our role as perioperative nurses in the operating theatre. I ask this month (and in the future) that we all celebrate our sterilising departments, as well as uphold the process for checking and insuring the integrity of our sterilised instrumentation. Take a walk through the sterilising department and say thanks – the work done there needs recognition. As a nurse leader, I am personally extremely grateful for the sterilising department at my workplace.

Some of ACORN’s directors will finish their term on the board in May. Sophie Ehrlich has been on a director since 2018, serving six consecutive years through a governance transition, the pandemic and now recovery. She has been a representative of the Northern Territory Perioperative Nurses Association for much longer and it is with a deep sadness that we bid her adieu. We thank Sophie for her service to our profession and the immense professionalism and foresight that she has served with. The board will miss her. We also say goodbye to Alison Schofield from New South Wales Operating Theatre Association after two years on the board with mostly virtual contact. Alison has served her term with grace and we thank her for her time and wish her all the best in her future endeavours.

My tenure is also complete, so I have informed the board and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of my intent to step down after two years as chair and four years on the board. It has been an extremely challenging time for the board as we continue to recover financially from the impact of the pandemic and the changes across our workforce as well as the increasing cost of living. I have been privileged during my term to work with ACORN directors and staff to continue the legacy of governance transition, working with a full-time CEO and changes to other roles within the company as we adapt and grow. I thank my fellow directors for their integrity and support; it has been an absolute honour and, as a leader, I have learnt so much from them all.

At the most recent board meeting, the board endorsed the nomination of a new board chair who will commence in June 2024. We will be announcing who it is in coming days with a full bio and introduction and everyone will have a chance to meet her at our next Annual General Meeting. I am confident that she will serve us as members extremely well.

To those looking to influence our profession, volunteering to expand the legacy that ACORN  has nurtured since its inception in 1977 is an experience that I will always treasure. I have met great people and made some amazing friends. I feel that, as a board, we’ve done lots right as well as acknowledged areas we need to do better to represent our members – albeit slowly given the multitude of issues that we are all currently facing. As a member, I am confident that the path ACORN is on will continue to respect and build on the College’s original mission, and I look forward to seeing ACORN’s success in the future. Finally, I wish to give my heartfelt thanks to our corporate and university partners as it is through their support that perioperative nurses will obtain what we need so desperately – ongoing education and opportunities to network, learn and grow.

Jessica Pougnault

Board Chair

SAPNA mentoring program
13 April, 15 June, 6 July, Burnside War Memorial Hospital, Adelaide 

European Operating Room Nurses Association (EORNA) 2024 Congress 
16–18 May, Valencia, Spain

ACORN Queensland conference: Emergence
25–26 October, Marcoola, Queensland

ACORN 2024 International Conference

28–30 November, ATC, Randwick, Sydney