Educational Courses

SAPNA Coaching and Mentoring Program

The SAPNA Member Coaching and Mentoring Program is a series of workshops based on SAPNA’s values of Care, Vision and Excellence, which will be held in 2024.

13th April, 15th June, 6th July 2024

The workshops will be held at Burnside War Memorial Hospital, but rural members are encouraged to apply, with the option of attending remotely. All SAPNA Members are encourage to apply.

This program has been subsidised by SAPNA, with successful applicants agreeing to a co-payment of $250, which covers all three sessions. Applicants must be available to attend all three sessions.

The program will be provided in a small group environment. Successful applicants will be selected by the SAPNA committee based on merit of application, and diversity of employment (public and private, metropolitan and rural). There is no restriction on who can apply.

Download the flyer and application form here

The case for mentoring in the perioperative department

Imagine this…

Susie is doing her graduate rotation in the theatre suite. Theatre seems very noisy, hurried and foreign to her, with an overwhelming number of new pieces of equipment and instruments which she has never heard of before. Her preceptor is Mary, but she hasn’t actually worked much with Mary because of staff shortages meaning that Mary is constantly required in other theatres. She doesn’t have anyone who can help smooth her introduction into this strange new world, which looks nothing like the labs at uni or any of her previous placements.

Susie is working with Mary one shift. Mary is feeling irritated because she has already spent the last three years orientating grads who never stay on in the unit, so she’s not very invested in teaching Susie. Susie is a bit scared of Mary and it makes her nervous and a bit clumsy. Mary sees Susie contaminate the edge of the aseptic field and she loudly exclaims “for goodness sake, now we have to set everything up all over again”. Susie is even more nervous now, and she’s embarrassed that the whole team heard what she had done.  The surgeon is obviously frustrated, because this has caused another delay to the already delayed list. Eventually the patient comes into theatre and goes off to sleep feeling very anxious because she can tell that there is a lot of tension in the room and staff are snapping at each other.

Mary didn’t want to be the shouty senior nurse, but she is very concerned for the patient’s safety and the smooth running of the list. Plus, this was how she learnt her role in theatre, so she doesn’t really know another way to teach.

Susie didn’t sleep well overnight because she was upset about the previous shift, so the next day, she is even more nervous and jittery. She is really trying to do a good job, but she accidentally contaminates the aseptic field again. She doesn’t want to admit this to Mary and risk another public embarrassment, so she says nothing and the surgery proceeds. At the end of her theatre rotation, she never returns to the department. She remembers the whole experience as stressful and upsetting, and she feels ashamed, knowing that she put a patient at risk.

Have you been the Susie in this situation, or perhaps even the Mary? Is there a better way of approaching this sensitive time in professional development?

Perioperative work, as a highly technical and complex field, has in the past had a reputation for somewhat lacking in the non-technical skills such as communication. Much of our work occurs behind closed doors and without observation by patients and visitors, meaning that there may have been little oversight about the way in which communication and feedback occured. However, it’s clear that most of us do our best work when we are in supportive teams with a culture which encourages growth and learning. Helping new team members adjust to the environment, work and team culture forms an important part of the induction process.

We all want to finish our shifts knowing that we did a good job, that we worked to our own highest standards and that we contributed positively to our teams. When we are on both the giving and receiving end of a mentoring relationship, this can translate into great satisfaction in our work.

The ability to speak up in a blame-free culture fosters learning and growth rather than judgement and silence. Some of us may have learnt from senior nurses who lacked skills in providing guidance and feedback. How do we learn to be mentors if we didn’t experience a lot of mentoring ourselves?

Working in established, experienced teams allows us to do our best work. The time and energy which we pour into training new staff members is lost if they leave the workplace. Additionally, the perioperative community is a small community and the reputation of being either a supportive workplace or one with a “burn and churn” culture profoundly affects the ability to attract staff.

Perioperative work is hard work – it can involve long hours, technically tricky, heavy work. The risk of burnout is real. However, when we are in teams where we feel invested and well supported, staff are more likely to stay in their roles. None of us want to spend months teaching a new staff member for them to leave and be replaced by another staff member who also requires months of teaching! Ideally, we would like to retain people in their roles so that they can become fully functioning members of our team.

We need nurses who are well equipped to do their jobs and supported to grow and learn. A learning culture means that staff are more likely to speak up when they make a mistake and to seek help when they feel unsure. Persistent interpersonal issues can be a serious distraction from our work, and a safety risk. Nurses who are learning a new role need to know that they can ask for support and receive it.

SAPNA is offering its members an opportunity to participate in a series of workshops to grow our skills as mentors. Based on SAPNA’s values of Care, Vision and Excellence, the course will be facilitated by a professional development consultant over 3 dates on 13th April, 15th June, and 6th July, from 9am-12pm. Participants will need to attend all three of the sessions, with opportunities to work on a mentoring project between sessions. The value of the course is $1000, but is being offered to members at the subsidised price of $250. Additionally, SAPNA has some educational grants available, and members are encouraged to investigate this option.

The application form and selection criteria is available on the SAPNA website. This promises to be a valuable course, and we are very excited to be able to bring you this opportunity!