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Archive February 2018 XIX, No. 2

Staffing: An Internship Program for New Surgical Nurses

A look at our immersive, hands-on training course for new RNs.

Andine Gilmore

Andine Gilmore, BSN, RN, CNOR


INTERNS UNITE A group shot of the proud products, new and old, of the perioperative internship program at SCL Health Lutheran Medical Center in Wheat Ridge, Colo.

How do you transform a graduate nurse who's never set foot in an operating room into a great surgical nurse? We solved this staffing challenge by developing a hands-on, in-house training program that gives nurses who had limited exposure to the perioperative setting in nursing school a chance to see up close and personal how our surgical unit runs.

Our Perioperative Nurse Intern (PONI) Program seems to be working quite nicely. Since its inception, we've trained 21 nurses to become staff circulators, many of whom might not have considered OR nursing as a career choice without the specialty training we provided. Nine (nearly half!) have stayed in our department for at least 12 months. Some have continued their path of professional growth to assume management and other leadership positions in the OR.

I'm a proud product of our internship program. When I was hired as a new graduate nurse into the internal float pool at SCL Health Lutheran Medical Center in Fall 2014, I expressed a strong desire to transition into the surgical services department. I was accepted into the internship program in Fall 2015. I completed 61⁄2 months of training and have been working as a full-time OR nurse since April 2016.

A paid internship

AORN's Periop 101 program inspired our internship program. Ours is designed as a 6- to 7-month long didactic and hands-on competency program. Here's how it works.

Once we hire a nurse through the regular interview process, she goes straight to the internship program. The first 4 weeks are didactic, followed by combined didactic and hands-on training. For the remainder of the program, interns rotate through our multiple surgical specialties, guided by staff RNs who serve as preceptors.

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