Operating Room Nurse

Operating Room Nurse Job Description & Scope of Practice
The operating room nurse is also known as a perioperative or OR nurse.  A perioperative nurse is responsible for patient care during and immediately following a surgical procedure.  This highly specialized nurse is part of the surgical team that ensures proper patient medical care before and throughout surgery.

The OR nurse is typically responsible for many of the following nurse duties:

  • Assessing patients prior to surgery
  • Acts as a liaison between the surgical team and the patient’s family
  • Helps monitor patients during surgery
  • Provides a sterile environment and instruments for surgery
  • Provides recovery care after surgery
  • Instructs patients on home after care needs

How to Become an Operating Room Nurse

An OR nurse is a high level nursing position that is reserved for some of the best and most highly educated nurses.  In order to become a successful perioperative nurse you must have the ability to work well under pressure and must be comfortable in all types of operating room settings.  In addition, OR nurses need to have strength and stamina to care for patients in a variety of circumstances and situations.

The OR nurse needs to be able to multi-task and work quickly and efficiently.  The operating room is a fast-paced environment where all team members must be prepared to take immediate life-saving measures.  Many nurses find that this environment is a good fit for them.  If you enjoy a fast-paced work environment and are prepared to work long yet rewarding hours, this position may be the best for you.

Operating Room Nurse Education Requirements, Certification, and Schooling Programs

An OR nurse is a specialized nursing position.  The first step towards becoming a specialized nurse is to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).  After earning a BSN degree you will need to get your nurse’s license by passing the NCLEX-RN exam.  The OR nursing student will want to further his or her education by attaining a Master’s degree in nursing (MSN).  This coursework should be completed after some time spent working in the nursing field.

Certification for operating-room nurses is available through the Competency and Credentialing Institute (CCI). Nurses who meet eligibility guidelines and pass a certification examination receive the Certified Nurse Operating Room (CNOR) credential. Two agencies accredit the CNOR including the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) and the American Board for Specialty Nursing Certification (ABSNC). Eligibility requirements include experience working in perioperative nursing education, administration, research or clinical practice. Candidates must have 2,400 hours of experience in perioperative nursing, with half of those hours spent working in an intraoperative setting. The certification exam consists of 200 multiple-choice questions pulled from nine core subjects. The exam takes three hours and 45 minutes to complete. Certification validates skills and knowledge, but it is not required to work as an operating-room nurse.

The OR nurse may also choose to join the Association of Operating Room Nurses (AORN).  This group oversees and assists OR nurses by providing information and resources specifically for use by nurses with a specialty in caring for patients before, during, and after a surgical procedure.  There are various levels of membership available including student membership.

Operating Room Nurse Salary and Career Outlook

Surgical procedures are on the rise and with an elderly population that is increasing, the need for this specialty nursing position is increasing.  More and more surgical procedures are being performed as medical advancements are made.  The requirement for specialty nurses to assist with medical procedures will continue to rise.

The salary level for these nurses ranges from $61,000 to $75,000.  OR nurses with advanced degrees or with extensive surgical experience will attain a higher salary.  The salary will depend on the education, experience, and knowledge of the nurse as well as the type and size of the employer.