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Family Connections

Perioperative nurse liaisons at the Hospital for Special Surgery, New York City, provide peace of mind while loved ones are in the OR

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Anyone who has sat in a waiting room while their loved one is in the operating room understands the anxiety and stress that makes minutes seem like hours.

NURSE LIAISONS: Perioperative nurse liaison Patricia Spergl, BSN, RN, visits the operating room to check with circulating nurse Sophia Kashis, BSN, RN, on the status of a procedure to relay the information to the family. photo by Jay Wiley

At Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in New York, NY, perioperative nurse liaisons fill an important communication void as they update and reassure family members. Sheila Byrne, RN, ONC, and Patricia Spergl, BSN, RN, are the pioneers launching this innovative role at HSS.

Grassroots Involvement

A Magnet-designated facility since 2002, HSS incorporates robust interdisciplinary collaboration and a shared governance model for nursing practice.

"The perioperative nurse liaison program came out of our Patient Service Excellence Council," said Ronald Perez, JD, RN, CNOR, assistant vice president for perioperative services. "It's a large interdisciplinary council focused on patient satisfaction, and includes staff from all areas."

As the council explored the feasibility of the new role, members visited Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City and Stamford Hospital in Stamford, CT, to see existing perioperative nurse liaison programs in action.

"Nurses from Stamford did a poster presentation at the AORN National Congress, and that caught our interest," Perez noted. "From there, a subgroup of the Service Excellence Council put together the role and began the selection process. Sheila and Patricia will mold it as we go along."

Byrne described how council members made the model their own.

"When we went to Memorial Sloan-Kettering and Stamford, those were multiservice hospitals, and we're more focused on orthopedics," she said. "Our goal was to take their programs, bring them here to HSS, and make them fit well with our patient population."

In acknowledgement of HSS's cutting-edge clinical care and specialized procedures, U.S. News and World Report named HSS the No. 1 orthopedic hospital in the country.

SURGICAL SERVICE EXCELLENCE: Perioperative nurse liaison Patricia Spergl, BSN, RN, checks in on patient Stacey Swezey and her partner Charles Severance before surgery. photo by Jay Wiley

"Patients come from everywhere in the city, the tristate area, out of state and even out of the country for the expertise we offer," said Tracy Willett, MBA, MSN, RN, CNOR, director of nursing for the operating rooms. "Family members often feel out of place, and need reassurance and support."

Experienced Clinicians

When it was time to choose the first nurse liaisons, Perez originally considered OR nurses.

"As it turns out, however, PACU experience is actually more valuable because nurses like Patricia and Sheila have more experience dealing with families for a more extended period of time," he noted. "They can make intuitive decisions about what families can handle, and understand which member of the surgical team can give them the information they need."

Willett agreed, adding, "I would look for an experienced perioperative nurse, someone with sound clinical knowledge who can go in and out of the OR and communicate with people in all different roles. I want someone who can establish rapport in a few seconds, be with families and comfort them, and explain medical information in an understandable way. Our nurse liaisons have to be fast on their feet, because they're walking around the whole day."

After 11 years in various positions at HSS, Spergl fit the bill.

"I've always believed we needed a liaison role for families, so when the role opened up, I applied right away," she said. "The perioperative nurse liaison ties everything together, keeping patients and family members connected throughout the day of surgery."

Family Connections

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Articles Archives

I would like to attend a seminar or conference for the ambulatory Nurse Liaison.

Chris Ealy,  Nurse Liaison,  HospitalJune 05, 2014

I am very interested in starting a surgical nurse liaison position at the hospital I work at. Can you give me advice on how you started your program and what all is involved in the role. thanks

michelle jones,  o.r. manager,  largo medical centerAugust 15, 2013
largo , FL


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