Many operating room nurses work in hospital surgical departments, but they also work in outpatient surgery centers. Besides general surgery, operating room nurses may also choose subspecialties within the field, such as cardiovascular surgery or neurosurgery.
Operating room nurses, also called surgical nurses or perioperative nurses, are RNs who specialize in the operating room. Perioperative nurses help plan, administer, and evaluate the treatment of patients scheduled for various surgical procedures. They work closely with patients and their family members, as well as the surgical staff and other health care professionals.
Surgical nurses are valued members of the surgical team because of their professional judgment and critical thinking skills, which are necessary to identify a surgery patient’s needs based on observation and assessment of patient data. According to the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN), the U.S. will need more than a million new RNs by 2022, especially in specialties like operating room nursing which was the sixth highest in-demand nursing specialty in 2019. As the population ages, surgical volumes increase, and 20% of perioperative nurses are expected to retire within the next five years; the AORN projects that demand for operating room nurses will increase 1% to 2% annually. Perioperative nursing is a top recruited specialty on NurseFly with thousands of OR RN jobs available nationwide.
Operating Room nursing at a glance
Scope of practice:
Care for patients before, during, and after surgery
Address patient and family member concerns
Monitor patients’ vital signs and report adverse changes
Gather necessary surgical equipment and supplies for the scheduled procedure
Ensure operating room sterility and optimal patient care
May work as a scrub nurse, circulating nurse, or RN First Assistant
Operating Room Nurse Salary
RNs in permanent staff positions can expect a median annual wage of $73,300 (BLS), which adds up to approximately $1,410 weekly or $35 hourly based on a 40 hour work week. According to NurseFly data, OR travel nurses earn an average gross weekly salary of $1,878, which includes a housing allowance and per diem for meals or incidentals. Housing and per diems aren’t taxed, but only travel nurses who claim a permanent tax-home may receive this extra compensation.
Because travel nursing roles tend to be short-term assignments in areas far from home, some employers also offer travel reimbursements. However, travel reimbursement, along with referral and completion bonuses, are taxed significantly more than any other type of pay. Higher tax rates can cut into your net earnings, but travel OR RN’s can still expect to earn more than those in an equivalent staff position.
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OR Nurse FAQs
What are the best agencies for OR Nurse jobs?
The agencies on NurseFly that currently have the most OR Nurse jobs are Stability Healthcare (421), MedPro Healthcare Staffing (324), and Ardor Health Solutions (251).
How Much Do OR Nurse Jobs Pay?
For jobs available on NurseFly as of Saturday, January 16th 2021, the average weekly pay for OR Nurse jobs is $2,073, but can pay up to $4,794 per week. In 2021, Operating Room Nurses jobs on Nursefly paid a gross average weekly pay of $1,893 per week working an average of 36 hours per week. This includes non-taxable compensation like living stipends, meal stipends, and housing which add up to an average value of $1,098 per week.
- min - $816
- avg - $2,073
- max - $4,794
Where do Operating Room OR Nurses work?
Many perioperative nurses work in the surgical department at hospitals, including preparing patients for surgery in the pre-op area and ensuring they’re safe to transport to the PACU after surgery. OR nurses may also work in ambulatory surgery units also called outpatient surgery centers.
Operating theatres are often fast paced, demanding, and stressful with little down time as a surgical team moves from one procedure to the next during a busy operating schedule. Operating room nurses must have physical stamina and emotional strength. This is true in operating rooms that perform general surgeries, but even more so in trauma or critical care surgery where patients present more severe conditions. Finally, OR nurses may also work in surgical units specializing in specific fields, such as cardiovascular surgery, plastic or reconstructive surgery, neurosurgery, oncology, pediatrics, or ophthalmology.
How to become an Operating Room Nurse specialist?
What does an Operating Room nurse do?
Operating room nurses assist surgical teams in the care of patients before, during, and after all types of operations using a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to patient care. Tasks vary because there are three distinct roles within the OR nursing field, including:
Scrub nurses: provide instruments and supplies to surgical staff during an operation
Circulating nurses: help maintain a safe operating room while managing overall nursing care
RN First Assistants: assist surgeons with direct surgical care, such as suturing and controlling bleeding
Prior to an operation, OR nurses answer questions and address concerns among patients and their families. They gather all the necessary supplies and patient info, ensuring the OR is set up properly. Because OR nurses play such an important role in the safety and positioning of the patient in the OR, their job requires an exceptional amount of attention to detail. During surgery, they continuously monitor the patient’s condition and inform the surgical staff of any adverse changes.
Following surgery, OR nurses ensure the patient is stable and recovering well enough to send to the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU). Operating room nurses also educate patients on appropriate post-op recovery procedures, including how to properly care for surgical wounds to prevent infections and manage post-surgery pain with prescribed or over the counter medications.
What skills make a good Operating Room nurse?
Operating room nurses are expected to be highly skilled RNs, meaning they’ve honed their clinical experience to become quick, efficient, and precise when providing compassionate care to patients. The complex, high-paced OR environment makes certain skills even more desirable. Organization, communication, and teamwork skills are critical for a good operating room nurse to enhance patient safety and facilitate optimal outcomes. Other necessary skills include:
Ability to remain calm under pressure
Compassion and empathy to patients’ needs
Problem solving to make critical patient care decisions
Multi-tasking to effectively coordinate patients’ health care
Attention to detail while monitoring patients for adverse changes in their conditions
Decision making to effectively determine when intervention or consultation is required
Maintaining a sterile environment and optimal patient positioning