Surgical nurses operate in a very high-stress atmosphere, and surgical nurse training is designed to prepare them to deal with all of the things that can happen before, during, and after surgery. Surgical nurses are specialized nurses, so there aren’t generally programs that cater to producing surgical nurses alone. Instead, surgical nurse training builds on general nursing education, to product registered nurses that are capable of handling the emergencies that can arise during an operation.
Becoming a surgical nurse usually follows this progression:
Nursing students receive a bachelor’s degree in nursing, and take the National Council of Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses.
After registered nurses gain over 2,400 hours of clinical experience in a surgical setting, they are eligible to take a Certified Nurses in the Operating Room exam.
After becoming a certified operating room nurse, surgical nurses may complete a registered nurse first assistant program, and take an RNFA exam.
Not all surgical nurses become registered nurse first assistants, but all RNFAs must be surgical nurses. The RNFA program provides another opportunity for continuing education and advancement for qualified operating room nurses.
Surgical Nurse Training Programs
There are a couple of different avenues that nursing students can follow to become surgical nurses, from starting out as a Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA), to starting out as a registered nurse (RN). All of the different starting points require the nursing student to pass their NCLEX-RN, put in the requisite number of hours in an operating room, and take the CNOR exam. The Association of periOperative Registered Nurses is an excellent resource for students looking for industry news, licensing and educational requirements, and job outlooks for operating room nurses. As always, a state’s Board of Nursing dictates what a surgical nurse’s scope of practice and continuing educational needs are, so they should be a nurse’s first stop when it comes to getting accurate information on surgical nurse training.
Surgical Nurse Scope of Practice
The term “surgical nursing” actually paints a variety of jobs with a pretty broad brush. Not all surgical nurses work in operating rooms- some work in laboratories, some work maintaining patient records, and some work in recovery rooms. In general, a surgical nurse’s scope of practice covers patient care before, during, and after surgery. Surgical nurses must monitor patients, see how well they respond to treatment, discuss potential changes in their plans of care with physicians, and do what needs to be done to ensure that they are able to recover well after surgery.
Why You Should Become a Surgical Nurse
Not everyone can handle the environment of working in an operating room. Not only is it fast paced and hectic at times, it can also expose nurses to a lot of things they wouldn’t have to see during their normal rounds as a hospital staff RN. If you have the drive and fortitude necessary to remain level headed in that kind of atmosphere, then becoming a surgical nurse may be right for you.
The nursing shortage is affecting every area of healthcare, but operating room nursing is one of the hardest hit. The average vacancy rate for surgical nursing positions is over 14%. This is bad enough as it is, but a study a few years ago discovered that surgical patients have a substantially better outlook if they are treated in hospitals with a high proportion of nurses with advanced degrees. This means that not only are more nurses needed in general, but more surgical nurses with advanced nursing degrees are needed in order to maintain acceptable patient survival rates. If you want to help save lives, and allow hospitals to keep caring for their patients, then becoming a surgical nurse may be the perfect career for you.
Surgical nursing isn’t easy, but the rewards are well worth the effort. The average annual salary for a surgical nurse is around $70,000, but most surgical nurses get involved in this career path for its own sake. By becoming an RN and undergoing surgical nurse training, you’ll be able to improve patient survival, and help hospitals provide care to greater numbers of people.