Operating Room Nurse – A Career to Consider

February 18, 2016

Nurses who specialize in working in and around the operating room (OR) are among the highest paid and most well-respected nurses in the world. Whether in a hospital, a day-surgery facility, a clinic or a doctor’s office, this is a demanding, but very rewarding, job.

Types of OR Nurses

The field is called perioperative nursing, and it involves working with patients and their families before, during, and after surgery. You can choose from a variety of specialties, including:

  • Circulating Nurse – works outside the sterile area, managing the overall nursing staff in the OR to ensure patient safety and comfort
  • Scrub Nurse – sets up the operating room, attends to the surgical instruments and supplies, passes instruments to the surgeon, and prepares the patient after surgery to move to the recovery room
  • RN First Assistant – helps the surgeon with a variety of surgical tasks, such as monitoring vital signs, controlling bleeding, and suturing
  • Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) or Recovery Nurse – cares for patients immediately after surgical procedures

Is This For You?

All nurses today need to be quick thinkers and have a lot of energy and stamina, but this is especially true for the potentially high-stress environment of an operating room. The doctors, the other nurses in the OR, and most important, the patient all need to be able to rely on your good judgement, steady reliability, and empathetic concern. You also need to be comfortable with technology as more and more surgery is being done through computer-assisted devices.

How to Prepare

Many hospitals and surgery facilities offer on-the-job training. Generally lasting one year, this training is often given in exchange for a commitment to work for a certain length of time in the future. Another way is through the Association of peri-Operative Registered Nurses (AORN), which offers a course of study called “Periop 101: A Core Curriculum” consisting of online coursework in conjunction with clinical practice.


Job opportunities in this field are excellent and growing. Although salaries vary widely depending on the size and nature of the surgical facility, a perioperative nurse can earn upwards of $75,000 a year.

For more information about becoming a perioperative nurse, visit this website: http://www.aorn.org/.