Aim: This paper is a report of a study exploring nurses' perceptions of the components of competence in the operating theatre.
Background: Competency Standards for operating theatre practice are used in some countries to guide clinical and professional behaviours. The need for competence assessment has been enshrined, but the conceptualization and agreement about what signifies competence in Operating Theatre has been lacking.
Methods: Three focus groups were conducted with 27 operating theatre nurses in three major metropolitan hospitals in Queensland, Australia. Interviews were audio taped and field notes were taken. Data were collected during 2008. Thematic analysis was performed.
Findings: From the analysis of the textual data, three themes were identified: 'coalescence of theoretical, practical, situational and aesthetic knowledge within a technocratic environment'; 'the importance of highly developed communication skills among teams of divergent personalities and situations'; and 'managing and coordinating the flow of the list'.
Conclusion: These findings have identified that competence in respect to components of knowledge, teamwork and communication, and the ability to coordinate and manage are important and should be incorporated in operating theatre Competency Standards. Additionally, findings may assist in the development of an instrument to measure operating nurses' perceived competence.