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Michelle Hibberson, the perioperative professional helping to bridge the standards knowledge gap

July 18, 2023

Michelle Hibberson lives and breathes standards. A Standards Australia NEXTgen* alum, she sits on four standards committees and is a champion for bridging the knowledge gap between perioperative nursing professionals and the standards that help shape their industry.

You are an active committee member across medical equipment, processing instruments, health care textiles, and surgical apparel standards – how did you first get involved with standards development?

I first volunteered to support standards development through the Victorian Perioperative Nurses Group. The group didn’t require any support and so referred me to the Australian College of Perioperative Nurses (ACORN) which was actively reviewing their standards at the time.  

I became ACORN’s standards officer and, as a nominating organisation with Standards Australia, they selected me to represent them on four Standards Australia technical committees.

While I no longer work with ACORN, as a NEXTgen alum I am able to continue to sit on various committees until I find another nominating organisation to represent.

ACORN develops its own standards and contributes to Australian Standards – you have helped to develop both. Did your experience with the NEXTgen program shape your standards development contribution?

From my perspective, NEXTgen was a brilliant experience. It was invaluable to learn about the standard writing process, how committees function and how they are formed.  

ACORN was incredibly supportive of my involvement in the program, actively encouraging me to participate and further expand my knowledge in the space.  

Ultimately, I have applied key learnings from the NEXTgen program to both my roles as Standards Officer at ACORN and committee member for Standards Australia.  

Is there a particular highlight to being a Standards Australia committee member?

Being a committee member is a vitally important role.  

The biggest committee I sit on at the moment is HE-023, Processing of Medical and Surgical Instruments. The work this committee does has a massive impact on any perioperative nursing environment because we rely on reusable instruments.  

Being able to sit on HE-023, have a voice and act as a representative of the perioperative community gives me an amazing opportunity to shape the standards we interact with daily.  

As you’ve said, these standards impact your industry – how far-reaching is the impact, and how do perioperative professionals interact with them?

There are so many standards that impact our industry, from standards supporting the design and development of the linen we use and the scrubs we wear, to the standards that guide us on how to launder and label them.

A lot of people at the coal face of the industry don’t know that standards exist, how to access them or how they help to shape their day-to-day lives.  

A good example of this came up recently. There’s currently some controversy in the perioperative field about reusable hats, with some people preferring to use a cloth hat instead. While that’s OK, it is important that cloth hats comply with several relevant standards, including standards related to textiles, labelling and laundering.

Being involved in the standards development process ensured I was aware of, and understood those standards, and I was able to engage with the process from a clinical perspective.  

I must say, ACORN does an excellent job in making people aware of standards and why they’re important.  

What does the future of standards look like for your industry?

I think it’s looking good. The main thing I think we need to focus on moving forward is informing people about standards and educating them about how standards are developed and how they can contribute to shaping the profession.

I’ve observed some pushback from people who aren’t aware that experts are developing these standards. In fact, it's often our own colleagues giving input to standards, ensuring they are applicable and relevant to the industry.  

* Standards Australia’s NEXTgen Program selects emerging industry and technical experts and provides them with the opportunity to become involved in the national and international standardisation processes supporting Australian industry and government.

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