If you ask Nakeisha Archer, president-elect of the Greater Houston Chapter of the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN), who inspired her to pursue nursing, there’s one person who comes to mind – her grandmother.
“When I was a little girl, my grandmother shared stories about how she loved taking care of patients in their homes,” Archer said. “She was a private duty nurse and the joy she derived from helping others motivated me to become a nurse.”
After graduating from nursing school with several clinical rotations under her belt, Archer spent six years as a labor and delivery nurse, which included a few years as a travel nurse. Before obtaining her MBA in health care management, she realized her niche was in the operating room (OR).
“I spent a lot of time in the OR as a labor and delivery nurse but I knew there was more to learn,” Archer said. “After completing a perioperative internship program, that’s when my passion for periop began.”
As assistant director of Perioperative Services at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, Archer leads a dynamic team of more than 40 nurses who assist with the planning, implementation and evaluation of patient care before, during and after surgery. These activities include patient assessment, creating and maintaining a sterile and safe surgical environment, providing pre- and post-operative patient education, monitoring the patient’s physical and emotional well-being and working closely with the surgical team to provide safe patient care during each phase of the surgical care process. Archer also collaborates with her non-nursing team whose roles are critical to the perioperative process. These include secretaries who schedule new cases, surgical technologists who scrub the cases, and perioperative care technicians and anesthesia technicians who provide specialized team support.
“Perioperative includes the entire surgical experience,” Archer said. “We see between 175 to 210 cases per month which include open, robotic and laparoscopic surgeries to treat a number of gynecological conditions including cancers, urological issues, as well as general surgery, fetal interventions, caesarean deliveries and in vitro fertilization procedures.”
The Pavilion for Women has four Main OR’s, two OR’s in labor and delivery, one procedure suite in the Main OR, and two procedure rooms in the Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Clinic. Two more Pavilion for Women Main OR surgical suites will open in May 2016 bringing the total to six OR’s to meet the increasing demand for perioperative services.
Archer says the need to hire and retain experienced perioperative nurses to fill these new positions is one of her top priorities. She says the best way to home “grow” our nursing staff is by providing consistent educational tools and internship programs to cultivate their skills so they can easily adapt to this fast-growing nursing specialty.
“We have a lot of openings right now in periop on the Pavilion side because we’re growing,” Archer said. “Most hospitals that do not have a shortage of experienced OR nurses offer a consistent internship and residency program every six months. When you keep that pipeline going and keep those nurses coming in and consistently train them, they will be ready to be placed in their new roles.”
Since joining the Pavilion for Women two years ago, Archer is thrilled to offer the second perioperative internship program for nurses later this month. This endeavor, which will continue every six months, is part of a joint partnership with Texas Children’s Pediatric Perioperative Services.
When Archer assumes her position as AORN president in May, her passion to advance educational opportunities for nurses will be one of her primary goals.
“One of the things that I think we as leaders don’t always do is have a really good succession plan for our nurse leaders as well as our nurses who are leading at the bedside,” Archer said. “We need to provide them with opportunities to grow and re-energize their periop voices by engaging members around issues that impact them.”
Leading a multi-generational nursing workforce has become a tremendous challenge too. Archer plans to collaborate with nursing leaders to help reframe perceptions about generational differences and to view these attitudinal and behavioral differences as potential strengths.
While much of Archer’s day is spent attending meetings, rounding with nursing and physician staff and staying abreast of all the cases scheduled for each day, she says at the end of the day, her greatest joy is taking care of her patients – just like her grandmother did.
“On a really good day, I can go to our waiting area and have conversations with some of the patients and families, and make sure that things are going well,” Archer said. “That’s really the fun parts of the job. If we could do that all day, it would be really good.”