Registered nurses who wish to work in a fast-paced environment may want to consider becoming an operating room nurse.
Operating room nurses are also known as surgical nurses or perioperative nurses. These are registered nurses who work in operating rooms, whether in a hospital, clinic, physician’s office, and ambulatory or surgery unit. These professionals work as part of the operating room team, and as such, work closely with patients and their family members, educating them with regards to procedures before the surgery takes place, adjusting treatment plans, managing pain, and teaching them about post-operative care.
During surgical procedures, surgical nurses are responsible for providing medical supplies, or providing surgical assistance, such as suturing and controlling of bleeding, and monitoring the patient’s wellbeing. Additionally, they may be tasked with maintaining sterile operating instruments.
Some surgical nurses work on call, nights, weekends, and even holidays.
How to Become an OR Nurse
The primary requirement to becoming an operating room nurse is to first become a registered nurse. There are three educational pathways in order to qualify as a registered nurse: a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN), which takes 4 years to complete, an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN), which requires fewer general education units and takes 2 to 3 years to complete, or a diploma in nursing, which is usually offered by hospitals and takes 2 to 3 years to complete. However, it is important to note that some schools offering perioperative nursing programs prefer to accept only individuals with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.
Students must make sure that the nursing program they choose meets the requirements of the state nursing board. After completing an accredited nursing program, they will be eligible to sit for the NCLEX-RN. They must pass this exam in order to be granted the required license and the opportunity to seek employment as registered nurses in the state.
Registered nurses who aspire to become surgical nurses must then acquire experience in the field. The knowledge and skills they acquire in emergency room or clinical care settings will be valuable, as some hospitals prefer to hire OR nurses with perioperative experience.
Important Qualities for OR Nurses
Compassion – Surgical nurses will be working with patients who will be experiencing some pain or discomfort post-surgery. They must possess empathy for the patients in their care especially concerning pain management. They must carefully monitor their patients and create and manage an effective pain control treatment.
Communication Skills – In order to provide the necessary and appropriate care, surgical nurses must be able to communicate effectively with their patients, their families, and fellow healthcare professionals.
Critical Thinking ¬– Surgical nurses must always be on the lookout for subtle changes in their patients’ behaviors, symptoms and conditions in order to detect complications arising from their surgeries, such as bleeding or infection.
Physical Stamina – Surgeries usually take a long time to complete, and surgical nurses must be able to endure the long stretches of time they will be required to stay on their feet, as they help in the procedure.
Emotional Stability – These professionals must be able to cope with the stresses that emergency situations entail.
OR Nurse Licenses, Certifications and Registrations
All practicing registered nurses must hold a valid state license, which can be obtained after completing their nursing education and passing the NCLEX-RN. Certification is optional for surgical nurses in some states, while it is mandatory for surgical nurses in others. There are specialty certifications for surgical nurses, such as adult cardiac surgery, plastic surgery, pediatric surgery and intensive care, which can be obtained through professional organizations, such as the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses and the American Society of Plastic Surgical Nurses.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a job growth of 19 percent for registered nurses from 2012 to 2022. This is faster than the average for all occupations. In addition, BLS states that growth is expected to be faster than average in outpatient care centers where patients do not stay overnight , such as those that provide same-day chemotherapy, rehabilitation and surgery. Furthermore, technology and research are allowing more and more seniors to undergo surgery for a greater number of medical conditions, which will account for the need for more surgical nurses.