Billings Gazete Article

Posted by Friedrick on April 12, 2006 in OR PEER


Returning from DC the a newspaper, the Billings Gazette, picked up on the story and published a front page article about the project.


Computer program lets nurses brush up on OR procedures

Operating room nurses at St. Vincent Healthcare are sleeping better at night thanks to an innovative teaching tool that is helping them do their jobs.

“There is anxiety that goes along with preparing for your case,” said Sally Hageman, the charge nurse for cardiac services at St. Vincent.

Sometimes, the stress is enough to keep a nurse awake the night before a particular surgery, Hageman said.

There are dozens of tasks that must be performed in advance of an operation, and they differ depending on what type of operation it is and which surgeon will be doing it.

Nurses are responsible for setting up complicated equipment, arranging instruments that will be used during surgery and positioning patients on operating tables, among other tasks. Everything must be done just so.

“If you haven’t done this in a few months … it can be a little intimidating,” Dr. Mike Schweitzer said.

Schweitzer is an anesthesiologist who helped develop a simple computer program that provides mini-refresher courses on almost two dozen surgeries that regularly take place inside St. Vincent Healthcare operating rooms.

The program won accolades during a recent national meeting of the Association of Operating Room Nurses in Washington, D.C., and an article about it is scheduled to be printed in the June edition of that organization’s journal.

“There’s a lot of national excitement about it in the operating room nursing field,” Schweitzer said.

Called the PowerPoint Electronic Education Resource, or PEER, the program uses photographs and text to present step-by-step instructions on how to perform myriad preparatory tasks, such as the way to put together the device that holds a patient’s head during brain surgery and how to array the tools needed for an appendectomy.

PEER also lists specific surgeons’ preferences — from their glove size to how they want the operating room to be set up.

“It’s what we do,” Hageman said. “All of these places do the same surgical procedures, but it’s how we do it.”

The photographs in the program were taken inside St. Vincent Healthcare’s surgery department, so they show the equipment nurses and other staff members use every day.

The program was put together by Schweitzer’s son, Friedrick, who is a college student.

Each PEER lesson runs for less than five minutes and can be accessed from any computer in the surgery department, including those in operating rooms.

The courses are divided into subsections so a specific task within a surgical procedure or the entire procedure can be reviewed.

“It supplements learning for people who are not going to read a dry text,” operating room nurse Joan Brewer said. “They can see pictures beforehand.”

Brewer said the lessons can be used during orientation for new staff members but are really meant as refreshers for longtime employees.

In many instances, operating room nurses assist during the same kind of surgery day after day. If they are asked to assist for another type of procedure — one they haven’t worked on in a while — they might need a reminder on how it is done.

That is especially likely during emergency surgeries or on night and weekend shifts, when there might not be an experienced colleague around to ask for help.

But sometimes using the PEER program is easier than admitting a memory lapse to a co-worker.

“This is not very threatening,” Brewer said.

PEER is also geared toward traveling nurses. Travelers know generally how to prepare for specific surgeries but probably are not familiar with the nuances of St. Vincent’s procedures.

Having an easy-to-access, interactive tool such as PEER increases staff confidence and patient safety, Schweitzer said.

Since the program was launched a few months ago, surgical employees have asked to have even more procedures added to it, and St. Vincent is examining other places within the hospital where it can be used.

“We don’t have to just do that in the OR,” Schweitzer said. “We can do that in the ICU, or we can do that in the ER.”

Contact Diane Cochran at dcochran@billingsgazette.com or 657-1287.


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