AORN's Sweet 60th
March 04, 2013
by Brendon Nafziger
, DOTmed News Associate Editor
For years, operating room nurses had to be content to meet up during surgeons’ conventions. But on a winter’s day 59 years ago, they at last got a room of their own. The Association of Operating Room Nurses held its first ever Congress on Feb. 1, 1954 at the Hotel New Yorker in Manhattan. Expecting a modest turnout of 400 to 500 nurses, the organizers were surprised on the Congress’ first day by a line of guests that stretched from the hotel’s mezzanine down to the lobby, according to a reminiscence published more than 30 years ago by Pauline Young, AORN’s first national president. In the end, more than 1,800 nurses and 43 exhibitors came to the inaugural meeting, Young said.
The association has come a long way since then. This spring, at the association’s 60th Congress to be held in San Diego, more than 5,000 perioperative nurses and 500 exhibitors are expected to attend.
“The 60th (anniversary) is the biggest excitement factor this year,” Tricia Cavallo, AORN Congress chief, told DOTmed Business News. The Congress, which runs March 2-7, will honor its diamond anniversary with different events, such as at a white party at the Fluxx nightclub.
But the meeting’s focus, as in most years, is not only on networking As the largest surgical trade show in America, it’s a space for vendors to debut new OR devices. It’s also where OR nurses can continue their education. Over its five days, the Congress features more than 100 speakers across nine educational tracks, covering everything from evidence-based research and infection control to management training. Cavallo said ambulatory surgical practice sessions will be especially popular, as that segment continues to grow.
AORN said it’s also trying to keep up with the times, adding new types of educational offerings to address learner’s needs, such as a simulation program to help infection control specialists and perioperative nurses better collaborate. The society is also continuing eCongress, an event launched at last year’s conference that lets members who can’t make the meeting access several key sessions online.
As with many shows, the main draw is often the keynote speakers, of which AORN has five, including Dr. Marty Makary, a surgical oncologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital, the author of the new book ”Unaccountable” and one of the developers of the surgical checklist later adopted by the World Health Organization. “He’s shining a bright light at practices and (emphasizing) the need for transparency,” said Gayle Davis, an AORN spokeswoman, who added that he has lessons meaningful for the perioperative nurse.
For many AORN members, though, the Congress is important as the annual business meeting where election results for the 2013-2014 board members are announced, and where the incoming president will describe initiatives for the new term. But face-to-face time with colleagues and long-distance friends might, in the end, be the main pull, just as it likely was all those decades ago.
“It’s the one annual event that all our nurses and industry get to see each other,” Cavallo said.