If you want a meaningful career that pays well, you might consider employment as a perioperative nurse, also known as an operating room or OR nurse. OR nurses are Registered Nurses (RNs) who work in hospital surgical units, ambulatory surgery units, clinics, and physicians’ offices. They are relied upon for their professional judgment and critical thinking skills. Additionally, these nurses may work closely with the patient and his or her family members as they plan, implement and evaluate that patient’s treatment. In addition to good pay and a growing demand for nurses, a career in nursing appeals to many people because it can provide a more flexible work schedule than many other occupations.

Duties of an Operating Room Nurse

OR nurses play several roles, including that of a scrub nurse who selects and handles instruments and supplies for operations; a circulating nurse who manages overall nursing care in the OR and who helps to maintain a safe and comfortable environment for all concerned; and an RN first assistant, who delivers direct surgical care by assisting the surgeon in bleeding control, wound exposure and suturing during actual procedures. OR nurses also may act as an OR director, a budget manager, clinical educator and pain management assistant.

In some hospitals, the current emphasis is on continuity of care in the area of perioperative nursing. As the patient moves from the admitting unit to the OR, post anesthesia care unit, and from there to the surgical unit that receives the patient or where the family takes him or her home, the OR nurse may be right there along the patient’s side. On the down side, many OR nurses are expected to accompany a doctor to tell families about bad news. While the doctor leaves, the OR nurse stays with the family to comfort them and to answer questions. On the up side, OR nurses often visit the family unaccompanied by a physician to tell family about a successful surgery or a positive diagnosis.

Related Types of Nurses

The operating room nurse is similar to the professions of critical care nursing, toxicology nursing and surgical nursing. Some perioperative nurses may later consider a career in business as a management consultant, clinical educator, researcher, or medical sales professional. With advanced education and training, some perioperative nurses elect to pursue the role of a nurse anesthetist (CRNA).

Operating Room Nursing Degrees

To gain the RN title required for OR nursing, students must graduate from a state-approved school of nursing through a four-year university program (BSN), a two-year associate degree program (ADN), or a three-year diploma program. Additionally, you must pass the NCLEX-RN licensing exam. Also, many employers will expect the OR nurse to obtain experience as a hospital or medical-surgical nurse before applying for an operating room nursing position. These work experiences will provide a taste of what it’s like to work in a fast-paced and stressful environment, where you can participate in life-saving decisions that make a difference.