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Operating Room as Nurses’ Learning Environment Term Paper

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Updated: Jul 13th, 2020

The operating room is alien to novice nurses. Besides, the operating room is usually considered uninviting and hostile to beginners. Performing a learner analysis is essential in ensuring the right instructional needs are emphasized. Moreover, learner analysis determines correct instructional goals (Reid, 2013). This paper will conduct a learner analysis based on the operating room setting as a learning environment for nurses.

Learning theories

Activities in operating rooms are quite difficult to comprehend for trainees. Instructors are expected to encourage interaction in such contexts. The three learning theories adopted for operating rooms include information-processing, experiential learning and situated learning (Sutkin, Littleton & Kanter, 2015).

Information processing theory

George Miller invented the information-processing theory. The theory ensures key learning materials are processed and stored by nurses in operating rooms. The theory comprises of short-term (sensory, working) and long-term memories, which are vital in operating rooms. Sensory memory takes about 3 seconds to process information with the capability of holding up to 7 discrete elements. Information from sensory goes to the working memory, which gives them meaning for either use or deletion (Illeris, 2009).

Data inferences are performed at this stage. In this case, nurses should have the ability to use resources gained in the operating room efficiently. Nurses in operating rooms must have a high degree of automaticity to achieve success in operating rooms. Working memory has up to 9 units of information with retention duration of about 15 seconds. On the other hand, long-term memory has an infinite capacity with permanent retention capability (Schraw & McCrudden, 2013).

Situated learning theory

According to Jean Lave, learning is closely linked to culture, context or activity carried out. Therefore, the environment is central to learning. Situated learning incorporates social interaction, which keeps nurses involved in the practice. This theory is essential in operation rooms since novice nurses interact with senior surgeons and patients. It is applied in problem-solving situations like surgery. Its principles include the presentation in authentic context and collaboration. Besides, it requires social interaction, which makes it good for operation rooms (Culatta, 2015).

Experiential learning theory

Carl Rogers came up with experiential learning theory in which he differentiated experiential and cognitive learning techniques. Rogers argued that the experiential theory was more significant than the cognitive theory. Experiential learning is compared to personal growth as well as transformation. Therefore, in operating rooms, it is assumed that all nurses have a natural capability of learning. Senior surgeons are therefore supposed to facilitate learning by making the environment conducive for nurses. Operation room instructors should also make clear the objectives for inexperienced nurses.

Also, operation instructors are expected to make available resources for learning as well as balance both emotional and intellectual parts of learning. These instructors should also open up to nurses without taking over. For example, a student who aspires to become a doctor would seek out materials on medicine. Such a student would learn better than one who has been assigned the subject (Beard & Wilson, 2006).

Summary and conclusion

Operating rooms are usually hostile to novice nurses. The inclusion of nurses in the operating room requires key learning theories to achieve the desired results. These theories help health instructors to ensure apprentice nurses reflect on their experiences positively. Operation room instructors should encourage participation and interaction with nurses. Introducing learning theories that promote interaction and participation would give operation theatre nurses valuable skills, experience and confidence to face even tougher challenges ahead. As nurses progress with their professional careers, they should be encouraged to interact with senior instructors in operation rooms.

The three theories chosen are of great importance in the operation room as a learning environment. The theories complement each other to ensure that nurses in operation rooms gain valuable skills and knowledge from their experienced instructors. Moreover, the theories are based on evidence-based nursing techniques. Presence in the operation room helps nurses to gain a psychological advantage because they get used to patients during operation as well as the basics of operation. Besides, nurses gain hands-on experience in a learning environment, which is instilling their confidence and passion for the job.

In the first theory (information processing), nurses utilize cognitive psychology to process information within learning operating rooms. Information processing theory utilizes chunking for cognitive processing. In an operation room, nurses can remember a long sequence of procedures during operation. The theory involves three principles that include short-term memory, planning as well as organization. Situated learning theory is equally important because it ensures that nurses are well conditioned to the operating room. Situated learning encourages social interaction as well as bestows a sense of belonging to operation room nurses.

This helps in complementing information processing and experiential learning because nurses are made aware of their importance in the operating room. Situated learning promotes gradual gaining of skills and knowledge from experienced experts through collaboration. Experiential learning is also vital to nurses in operating rooms because it attends to their needs. Moreover, experiential learning takes into account the interests of nurses, which is critical to the acquisition of knowledge and skills. Nurses would gain significantly because they have an interest in the subject. Besides, experiential learning promotes self-initiated learning that is vital to the acquisition of knowledge.


Beard, C., & Wilson, J. (2006). Experiential learning: A best practice handbook for educators and trainers. London, UK: Koran Page. Web.

Culatta, R. (2015). . Web.

Illeris, K. (2009). Contemporary theories of learning: Learning theorists … In their own words. London, UK: Routledge. Web.

Reid, W. (2013). Teaching and learning in operating theatres. Web.

Schraw, G., & McCrudden, M. (2013). Information processing theory. Web.

Sutkin, G., Littleton, E., & Kanter, S. (2015). Learning theories applied to micro-teaching moments in the operating room. The Journal of Minimally Invasive Gynecology, 22(3), 57. Web.

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