Growing evidence demonstrates the link between the quality of care nurses provide, patient outcomes, and nurses' level of qualification and expertise. Little attention has been given to measuring the influence of experience and education on nurses' perceptions of their perioperative competence. To describe the influence of years of OR experience and specialty education on nurses' perioperative competence, we surveyed 345 perioperative nurses from two Australian hospitals. We developed the 98-item survey to specifically measure perioperative competence across eight domains that reflect knowledge, skills, and attitudes. We used multiple regression to analyze the data. There were differences in nurses' perceived perioperative competence based on perioperative experience and education, with more experienced nurses and those with specialty education reporting higher competence scores. Multiple regression analysis showed that experience and specialty education contributed to 23.3% of the variance in nurses' perception of their perioperative competence. Education initiatives are commonly used to address knowledge and attitudinal deficits; however, the results of this study suggest that education may only partly address these shortfalls. Hospital education programs should include staff development strategies associated with succession planning. Strategies that build on perioperative nurses' clinical experience and expertise will provide them with opportunites to develop skills in coordination and clinical leadership. Importantly, education occurs in a context and thus is embedded in clinical practice.
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