Operating room nurses, also known as perioperative nurses, are registered nurses who provide care for patients before, during, and after surgeries. They work with the surgical team to create and maintain a safe, comfortable, and sterile environment. They also provide information, assessment, and nursing care for patients throughout the perioperative period.
If you are interested in becoming an operating room nurse, you may wonder what it is like to work in this specialized field. In this article, we will share 10 important things you should know about being an operating room nurse, including the benefits, challenges, skills, education, and certification requirements.
Operating room nurses have different roles and responsibilities
Depending on the type and stage of the surgery, operating room nurses may have different roles and responsibilities. Some of the common roles are:
- Preoperative nurse: This nurse assesses the patient before surgery, verifies their identity and consent, gathers their medical history and allergies, and prepares them for the procedure. They also educate the patient and their family about the surgery and the expected outcomes.
- Scrub nurse: This nurse works inside the sterile field and assists the surgeon during the operation. They select and pass the instruments and supplies needed for the surgery, and ensure they are accounted for and properly handled. They also monitor the patient’s condition and alert the surgical team of any changes or complications.
- Circulating nurse: This nurse works outside the sterile field and oversees the overall nursing care in the operating room. They coordinate with the surgical team and other staff members, check the equipment and supplies, maintain the documentation and records, and ensure the safety and comfort of the patient. They also communicate with the patient’s family and update them on the progress of the surgery.
- Postoperative nurse: This nurse cares for the patient after the surgery in the recovery room. They monitor the patient’s vital signs, manage their pain, prevent infections, and provide wound care. They also educate the patient and their family on the postoperative instructions and discharge plan.
Operating room nurses work in various settings and specialties
Operating room nurses can work in different settings, such as hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, clinics, or doctors’ offices. They can also choose to specialize in different types of surgery, such as general, orthopedic, cardiovascular, neurologic, plastic, or pediatric. Depending on the setting and specialty, operating room nurses may encounter different types of patients, procedures, equipment, and challenges.
Operating room nurses need specific skills and qualities
To be successful as an operating room nurse, you need to have certain skills and qualities, such as:
- Technical skills: You need to have the knowledge and skills to use the surgical instruments and equipment, as well as the sterile and aseptic techniques. You also need to be familiar with the surgical procedures and the potential complications and risks.
- Critical thinking skills: You need to be able to analyze the patient’s condition, plan and implement the appropriate nursing interventions, and evaluate the outcomes. You also need to be able to anticipate and respond to emergencies and unexpected situations.
- Communication skills: You need to be able to communicate effectively with the patient, their family, and the surgical team. You need to be able to provide clear and accurate information, instructions, and feedback. You also need to be able to listen and empathize with the patient and their family.
- Organizational skills: You need to be able to manage your time and prioritize your tasks. You also need to be able to keep track of the instruments, supplies, and documentation in the operating room.
- Teamwork skills: You need to be able to collaborate and coordinate with the surgical team and other staff members. You need to be able to respect and support each other’s roles and responsibilities. You also need to be able to share your knowledge and experience with your colleagues.
- Emotional skills: You need to be able to cope with the stress and pressure of working in the operating room. You need to be able to handle the emotional and physical demands of caring for surgical patients. You also need to be able to balance your personal and professional life.
Operating room nurses need specific education and training
To become an operating room nurse, you need to have the following education and training:
- Nursing degree: You need to complete a nursing program and earn a diploma, an associate’s degree, or a bachelor’s degree in nursing. A bachelor’s degree may be preferred by some employers and may offer more career opportunities and advancement.
- Nursing license: You need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) and obtain a state license to practice as a registered nurse. Meanwhile, we have written articles on NCLEX-RN;
- Discover the Best States in the USA for Your NCLEX-RN Exam Success
- Top Ten States in the USA Best for Taking the NCLEX Exam
- NCLEX Application Process for Foreign Nurses: Tips and Tricks for Choosing the Easiest State
- You need to maintain your license by meeting the continuing education and renewal requirements of your state.
- Operating room experience: You need to gain some experience as a registered nurse in the operating room or a related area, such as intensive care or emergency. Some employers may require at least one year of experience before hiring you as an operating room nurse. You may also need to complete an orientation or internship program to learn the specific skills and procedures of the operating room.
- Operating room certification: You may choose to obtain a certification as an operating room nurse to demonstrate your competence and professionalism. The most common certification is the Certified Nurse Operating Room (CNOR) credential, which is offered by the Competency and Credentialing Institute (CCI). To be eligible for the CNOR exam, you need to have a current RN license, at least two years and 2400 hours of perioperative nursing experience, and a minimum of 50 hours of continuing education in perioperative nursing. You need to renew your certification every five years by meeting the professional development and practice requirements.
Operating room nurses earn competitive salaries and benefits
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for registered nurses was $75,330 in May 2020. However, operating room nurses may earn higher salaries than the average, depending on their experience, certification, location, and employer. According to Payscale, the average annual salary for operating room nurses was $76,650 in July 2022.
Operating room nurses may also receive various benefits from their employers, such as health insurance, retirement plans, paid time off, tuition reimbursement, and certification bonuses. Some employers may also offer relocation assistance, sign-on bonuses, or travel opportunities for operating room nurses.
Operating room nurses have flexible and diverse career options
Operating room nurses have many career options to choose from, depending on their interests, goals, and preferences. Some of the career options are:
- Travel nurse: This is a nurse who works in different locations for short-term assignments, usually ranging from 8 to 26 weeks. Travel nurses may enjoy the opportunity to explore new places, gain diverse experiences, and earn higher pay and benefits. However, travel nurses may also face challenges such as adapting to different work environments, cultures, and policies, and dealing with the uncertainty and instability of their contracts.
- Educator: This is a nurse who teaches and trains other nurses or students in the operating room or a related field. Educators may work in academic institutions, hospitals, or professional organizations. Educators may enjoy the opportunity to share their knowledge and expertise, influence the future of nursing, and pursue advanced degrees or research. However, educators may also face challenges such as balancing teaching and clinical responsibilities, meeting the academic standards and expectations, and coping with the workload and stress of education.
- Manager: This is a nurse who oversees and coordinates the nursing care and operations in the operating room or a related department. Managers may work in hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, or other health care facilities. Managers may enjoy the opportunity to lead and mentor other nurses, improve the quality and safety of care, and participate in strategic planning and decision-making. However, managers may also face challenges such as managing the budget and resources, resolving conflicts and issues, and dealing with the pressure and accountability of leadership.
- Advanced practice nurse: This is a nurse who has completed a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing and has obtained a certification and license to practice in a specialized role and scope. Some of the advanced practice roles that are related to the operating room are nurse anesthetist, nurse practitioner, and clinical nurse specialist. Advanced practice nurses may enjoy the opportunity to provide advanced and autonomous care, collaborate with other health care professionals, and expand their career opportunities and income. However, advanced practice nurses may also face challenges such as meeting the educational and certification requirements, complying with the legal and regulatory standards, and maintaining their competence and credentials.
Operating room nurses face various challenges and risks
Working as an operating room nurse can be rewarding, but it can also be challenging and risky. Some of the challenges and risks are:
- High stress: Operating room nurses work in a fast-paced and high-pressure environment, where they have to deal with complex and critical situations, such as emergencies, complications, and errors. They also have to cope with the emotional and ethical aspects of caring for surgical patients and their families, such as informed consent, end-of-life decisions, and adverse outcomes.
- Physical and mental fatigue: Operating room nurses work long and irregular hours, often involving night shifts, weekends, and holidays. They also have to stand for prolonged periods, lift and move heavy equipment and patients, and perform repetitive and precise tasks. These factors can cause physical and mental fatigue, which can affect their health and performance.
- Occupational hazards: Operating room nurses are exposed to various occupational hazards, such as infections, injuries, allergies, and radiation. They may come into contact with bloodborne pathogens, surgical smoke, latex, and chemicals. They may also suffer from needlestick injuries, cuts, burns, or falls. They may also be exposed to ionizing radiation from X-rays, fluoroscopy, or nuclear medicine. These hazards can pose serious health risks for operating room nurses, such as infections, diseases, cancers, or infertility.
Operating room nurses need to follow strict standards and guidelines
Operating room nurses need to follow strict standards and guidelines to ensure the quality and safety of care in the operating room. Some of the standards and guidelines are:
- Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN): This is the professional organization for operating room nurses in the United States. It provides evidence-based practice guidelines, education, certification, and advocacy for perioperative nursing. It also publishes the Perioperative Standards and Recommended Practices, which are the authoritative source of recommendations for perioperative nursing practice.
- The Joint Commission (TJC): This is an independent, nonprofit organization that accredits and certifies health care organizations and programs in the United States. It sets the standards for quality and safety of care, and evaluates the performance of health care organizations. It also conducts surveys and inspections to assess the compliance of health care organizations with the standards and requirements.
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA): This is the federal agency that regulates and enforces the occupational safety and health standards in the United States. It protects the workers from hazards and risks in the workplace, and provides training, education, and assistance for employers and employees. It also investigates and responds to complaints, violations, and accidents in the workplace.
Operating room nurses have a high level of satisfaction and fulfillment
Despite the challenges and risks, operating room nurses have a high level of satisfaction and fulfillment in their work. Some of the reasons are:
- Making a difference: Operating room nurses have the opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of their patients and their families. They help them cope with the stress and anxiety of surgery, and provide them with the best possible care and outcomes. They also witness the miracles and wonders of surgery, and share the joy and gratitude of their patients and their families.
- Learning and growing: Operating room nurses have the opportunity to learn and grow in their profession. They encounter different types of patients, procedures, and situations, which challenge and enrich their knowledge and skills. They also have access to various resources and opportunities for continuing education, certification, and specialization. They also learn from their colleagues and mentors, and contribute to the advancement of perioperative nursing.
- Being part of a team: Operating room nurses have the opportunity to be part of a team of dedicated and skilled professionals. They work closely with the surgeons, anesthesiologists, technicians, and other staff members, who share the same goals and values. They also support and respect each other, and create a culture of collaboration and excellence.
Operating room nurses have some tips and advice for aspiring and new operating room nurses
If you are interested in becoming an operating room nurse, or if you are a new operating room nurse, you may benefit from some tips and advice from experienced operating room nurses. Some of the tips and advice are:
- Do your research: Before you decide to pursue a career as an operating room nurse, you should do some research on the field and the profession. You should learn about the roles and responsibilities, the skills and qualities, the education and training, the certification and licensure, the salary and benefits, and the career options and opportunities of operating room nurses. You should also talk to some operating room nurses and ask them about their experiences, challenges, and rewards.
- Get some experience: Before you apply for a job as an operating room nurse, you should get some experience as a registered nurse in the operating room or a related area. You should also complete an orientation or internship program to learn the specific skills and procedures of the operating room. This will help you prepare for the job and increase your chances of getting hired.
- Seek mentorship: When you start working as an operating room nurse, you should seek mentorship from a senior or experienced operating room nurse. You should ask them for guidance, feedback, and support. You should also observe and learn from their practice and performance. This will help you improve your skills and confidence, and avoid mistakes and errors.
- Keep learning: As an operating room nurse, you should keep learning and updating your knowledge and skills. You should attend seminars, workshops, and conferences, and read journals and books on perioperative nursing. You should also pursue continuing education, certification, and specialization, and explore new career opportunities and challenges. This will help you enhance your competence and professionalism, and advance your career.
Operating room nurses are registered nurses who provide care for patients before, during, and after surgeries. They work with the surgical team to create and maintain a safe, comfortable, and sterile environment. They also provide information, assessment, and nursing care for patients throughout the perioperative period.
Operating room nurses have different roles and responsibilities, depending on the type and stage of the surgery. They also work in various settings and specialties, depending on their interests and preferences. They also need specific skills and qualities, such as technical, critical thinking, communication, organizational, teamwork, and emotional skills. They also need specific education and training, such as a nursing degree, a nursing license, operating room experience, and operating room certification.
Operating room nurses earn competitive salaries and benefits, and have flexible and diverse career options. They also have a high level of satisfaction and fulfillment, as they make a difference, learn and grow, and be part of a team. However, they also face various challenges and risks, such as high stress, physical and mental fatigue, and occupational hazards. They also need to follow strict standards and guidelines, such as those from AORN, TJC, and OSHA. They also have some tips and advice for aspiring and new operating room nurses, such as doing research, getting experience, seeking mentorship, and keeping learning.
Operating room nursing is a rewarding, but challenging career. If you are interested in becoming an operating room nurse, you should consider the pros and cons, and prepare yourself for the requirements and expectations. If you are already an operating room nurse, you should be proud of your work, and strive for excellence and improvement. Operating room nursing is not for everyone, but for those who choose it, it can be a fulfilling and exciting profession.