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Nursing News HighlightsReal Nurses Real Stories

The Power of Persistence and Preceptorship

A female nurse and her female mentor in full scrubs and face masks reviewing papers in a hospital setting
Perseverance can often be the ultimate key to changing your career. This certainly rang true for Sarah McDonald, RN, BSN, when she found out she was not selected for the highly competitive perioperative program at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in Boston, Mass., in the fall of 2015.

Perseverance can often be the ultimate key to changing your career. This certainly rang true for Sarah McDonald, RN, BSN, when she found out she was not selected for the highly competitive perioperative program at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in Boston, Mass., in the fall of 2015.

Sometimes called a surgical or an operating room (OR) nurse, perioperative nurses care for patients before, during and after surgery. They help plan, implement, and evaluate treatment of the surgical patient and typically serve as liaisons between the surgical team and patients’ families. Because of the fast-paced environment of the OR and the additional education needed to succeed in this role, medical facilities like BIDMC often offer programs to help perioperative nurses obtain necessary experience and complete continuing education requirements. 

Two female nurses smiling in protective smocks in hospital corridor

Rather than giving up, Sarah stayed in touch with the nursing manager and took her up on an offer to come in on her days off as a medical-surgical nurse at BIDMC to observe the perioperative team. She quickly developed a relationship with one nurse in particular, Angela Kelly, BSN, RN, CNIV, who was approached a few months later by the hospital’s education department for her input on Sarah’s operating room observation sessions.

“I told them that I had a good feeling about her and they agreed to grandfather her in to the training program, as the next official perioperative program wasn't set to begin for another year,” Angela said. “So, I was asked if I would take on the challenge of training a nurse directly from the floor to the operating room.”

With the goal of completing her training in 10 months, Sarah shadowed Angela for full 10-hour shifts in the OR and spent time each week studying for and completing Periop 101, a program based on the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) Guidelines for Perioperative Practice, which is used by more than 2,500 hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers nationwide to recruit, educate and retain perioperative nurses. Additionally, she shadowed other roles on the surgical team, including a nurse anesthetist, and in other departments like central processing, where she learned how the hospital sterilizes and packages all of the equipment used during surgery. The biggest challenge for Sarah, who had spent more than nine years as a medical-surgical nurse, was to be “new” again.

“Learning about the equipment and medications, positioning patients, and even communicating with different staff could be overwhelming at times,” Sarah said.

However, in just seven months, Sarah was ready to function independently as an operating room nurse, and now works alongside Angela as a colleague. She attributes her relationship with her mentor as the primary factor of her success.

“I think knowing you have someone you can always count on to be there for you has helped me the most,” Sarah said. “If I’m not sure about something, I can always turn to Angela and talk it through. I consider Angela to be not just my mentor, but also my friend.”

According to Angela, the entire surgical team has benefitted from their mentoring relationship.

“I needed a small army of people to help train Sarah, with all of their unique skills and backgrounds,” said Angela. “When the entire multidisciplinary team sees you mentoring someone like Sarah who is so eager and dedicated, I believe it truly lifts up the morale of the department knowing we have invested wisely in a great nurse who has dedicated several years to the hospital already. Despite never having stepped in the operating room before this program, Sarah had dreams of becoming a perioperative nurse and we made it possible.”

For Sarah, who had wanted to be a perioperative nurse since nursing school, her new career is off to a strong start, thanks to a strong foundation built through her years as a medical-surgical nurse and the help of her mentor. She encourages other nurses in similar situations to follow her example.

“I am where I’ve always wanted to be and I know this is where I belong,” she said. “Embrace this type of programming. Mentors have the experience in this profession, and learning from their experiences and their stories is such a benefit.”

To learn more about Angela and Sarah’s unique mentoring relationship, check out the Campaign’s new “Day in the Life” video below. For more information about perioperative nursing, visit the specialty page on



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