NSW OTA Conference, 16 & 17 March

The theme of this year’s Conference was ‘The Future of Perioperative Nursing’, so plenty of scope for the many excellent speakers we were treated to over the two day Conference. I really enjoy this annual event, especially as I am no longer clinically active I enjoy hearing about what my colleagues are up to in their workplace, the challenges and triumphs in equal measure.

The medical companies always put on a good display in showcasing the latest and greatest in new products. What caught my eye this year? Some new, ergonomically shaped sharps trays, a number of companies with an array of disposable gowns and more companies, than I remember, demonstrating surgical plume diathermy pens.

Monique Gilbert

Monique Gilbert presented an interesting paper about the role of Medical Company Representatives (MCRs) in operating theatres. Monique identified many of the benefits when MCRs are available to come into theatres as well as some of the risks. This paper generated a lot of discussion about the nurse’s role as supervisor of visiting MCRs and the importance of educational preparation for MCRs.

I enjoyed Kathy Flanigan’s opening presentation which looked at the past and what our future perioperative nursing role will look like. Kathy is immediate past President, Perioperative Nurses Association of Queensland (PNAQ) which has more recently become ACORN Qld. She put forward her thoughts on we can do to ensure the future of perioperative nursing including:

  • maintaining our knowledge base, as knowledge is power
  • creating a dynamic team – getting the most out of your colleagues
  • making the most of workplace opportunities to improve practice
  • taking care of ourselves – remember you are not super nurse – have some fun!
  • always keeping the patient as our main focus and remembering that our daily life is work, but for the patient it could be one of the worse days of their lives – facing surgery

It was a lively and interactive start and set the tone for the Conference.

Other highlights for me:

Lilian Blair – reminding us of our responsibilities when handling S4D and S8 drugs – a good practical refresher. Key messages –  importance of a signatures register, drug book audits being done by a person from outside the OR, ensuring correct documentation – especially for incorrect entries, who can carry the keys, importance of central key safes in departments that have individual drug cupboards in each OR.


Lilian Blair








Mark Aitken –informed us about the Nurse & Midwife Support service. Funded from our AHPRA Registration fees it is a confidential, 24/7 telephone support service with trained counsellors, who can provide a vital role in supporting us when facing either personal or professional issues that may adversely affect our lives. He highlighted that many of the calls the service receive relate to stress and workplace bullying, drug and alcohol concerns either for themselves or colleagues. The service provides referrals for appropriate ongoing support. They can be contacted on 1800 667 877.

Brian Julien – an interesting presentation about Root Cause Analysis, using a case study of wrong site surgery, to review the steps involved in investigating, analysing and making recommendations when this adverse event happened to a surgical patient.  Though not a situation in which we would like to find ourselves, it was a valuable insight into the steps of an investigation and the outcome. There was much discussion from the audience about rating incidents using the SAC matrix.

Michelle Skrivanic – reminded us once again about the value of recycling and making ORs environmentally sustainable. I have heard Michelle present on this topic before, but each time, she inspires us to do more! Most recently her team at Concord Hospital have turned their attention to the tearoom and introduced reusable cups for all the staff and visitors, no plastic cutlery, a soap dispenser incorporated into the sink set up to reduce the amount of detergent used and bins to segregate waste – paper and plastics.

Penny Smalley – a frequent visitor from US and laser/plume expert unveiled the new National Laser Safety Standard (AS/NZ 4173:2018) due for release in April. It has been 14 years since the last standard, so well overdue for review, particularly with the increased use of laser both in hospital and cosmetic practice. It was clear from Penny’s presentation that many  changes will be needed to education programs and management structures to comply with the new standard. In particular for those working with Class 3b or Class 4 lasers.

Penny Smalley







Judy Smith – a thoughtful discussion on ‘Blending Care with Technology’ attempting to answer the question of whether caring can exist in a perioperative environment which use increasing amounts of technology, eg robotics. Judy discussed the impact of technology on the perioperative role – the tensions that exists each day as we grapple with ‘technology stress’ and how we can continue to be true to ourselves as nurturers, patient advocates and skilled clinicians.

Judy Smith








Libby Brookes – head of NSW/ACT medical negligence department in the law firm, Maurice Blackburn. She reminded us, using a number of legal cases, of the importance of keeping good medical records in the perioperative environment. She praised perioperative nurses for their skill in keeping good documentation and electronic records.

Libby Brookes








Overall, a great couple of days. Looking forward to our national ACORN Conference in May which will see colleagues from ASIORNA joining us for a truly international event.