AORN CEO to Retire


AORN CEO to Retire

Linda K. Groah, RN, the chief executive officer (CEO) and executive director of the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN), has announced her plans to retire at the end of this year after a new CEO is selected, according to a release. AORN’s board president, president-elect, treasurer, chief financial officer (CFO) and senior human resources director will oversee the search and selection process for a new CEO, which is expected to take six to nine months.

Groah, a veteran perioperative nursing executive, steps down from her role after more than 17 years leading the national nonprofit association that authors the nationally recognized nursing standards for surgical patient and team safety, according to the release. She has been AORN’s longest serving chief executive, taking on the role in March 2007 after nearly 18 years as a chief nursing officer/chief operating officer with Kaiser Foundation Hospitals in San Francisco and several other perioperative nursing roles. She also had served as AORN board president for the 1996-1997 term.

“Linda has set a high bar of professionalism and innovation over the past 17 years, and we’re thankful for everything she has contributed to advance our specialty and patient safety,” said AORN Board President Nakeisha Tolliver, RN, in the release. “Our search committee will be rigorous in finding the very best candidate who understands the rapidly evolving environment that perioperative nurses work in and, most important, how AORN will guide them in providing safe care for patients undergoing surgery in every hospital and ambulatory setting in the country.”

As CEO, Groah's most important achievement was to lead AORN’s evolution from issuing “recommended practices” to a higher standard of perioperative guidelines derived from research and providing evidence-based recommendations, according to the release. Her other notable achievement was to participate in the 2009 World Health Organization’s international conference to standardize a comprehensive surgical checklist aimed at reducing surgical risk and complications as one of two nurses. This checklist is now used globally in caring for patients before, during and after surgery. She also helped push for legislation or regulation in 25 states requiring an RN circulator in the OR. Under her leadership in 2016, AORN launched a national advocacy and education initiative to eliminate surgical smoke in operating rooms and reduce health hazards impacting OR nurses. Legislation has successfully passed in 17 states to date, with several others pending.

As nursing shortages grew to a national crisis, Groah focused on growing the pipeline of perioperative nurses. She created partnerships with colleges to educate undergraduate nursing students about the surgical specialty, according to the release. AORN’s Introduction to Perioperative Nursing course is now offered as an elective in more than 60 US colleges and has been shown to increase those choosing perioperative practice for their career.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Groah elevated AORN’s influence on safe surgical practice. She was instrumental in building a coalition of leaders from the American College of Surgeons, the American Society of Anesthesiologists, the American Hospital Association and AORN to determine processes and provide a roadmap for facilities and surgical teams to safely resume surgeries, according to the release. The pandemic also spotlighted her longstanding commitment to invest in new technology and transform AORN into a digital company. Just two months after canceling its annual Global Surgical Conference & Expo in 2020, AORN became one of the first healthcare associations to transition to a fully virtual conference and tradeshow.

“There was no modern roadmap for leading an organization through a global crisis that would influence patient care while restructuring an organization to maintain solvency," said AORN CFO James Cousin, in the release. "But Linda modeled resilience for staff and steered us to embrace greater collaboration and innovation.”

In 2017, Groah established AORN Syntegrity, a subsidiary that develops solutions for healthcare facilities to improve documentation of perioperative workflows, surgical scheduling and the visibility of nursing's impact on outcomes. More than 800 facilities now use AORN Syntegrity within their electronic health records, according to the release.

Under Groah’s leadership, AORN acquired two companies: Pfiedler Education Inc. in 2015 and Outpatient Surgery Magazine in 2018.

“Linda’s pursuit of strong strategic and financial outcomes has led AORN to achieve higher membership, record revenues, the largest number of employees, creation of new successful products and services, and strong partnerships with associations, medical device companies and health systems,” Cousin said in the release.

During Groah's tenure, AORN has received multiple awards for being a top workplace and for advancements in diversity, equity and inclusion, according to the relesae. Newsweek magazine also listed AORN among its Top Online Learning Providers.

“Linda’s influence goes well beyond her business acumen,” Tolliver said in the release. “She is first and foremost a nurse. She demonstrates that in how she treats people with compassion, and how she puts the needs of perioperative nurses and their patients as AORN’s first priority.”