The operating room is sometimes referred to as "the operating theater." Given the level of drama that transpires there, it's an apt descriptor.
For the same reason, operating rooms feature prominently in television dramas. In those, the spotlight is typically on the surgeon, usually impossibly young and impossibly good looking. But in a real operating room, other staff perform essential roles. Among these indispensable professionals are OR nurses (also known as perioperative nurses or surgical nurses).
OR nursing is a challenging job. You'll work long days (and nights), stand for hours at a time, and be on call during holidays and other family events. Through it all, you'll be dealing with high-stakes on-the-job challenges, participating in life-and-death situations nearly every day. You'll need calm, patience, attention to detail, people skills, and a flexible schedule to handle it all.
The U.S. is facing a nursing shortage, so more than ever, hospitals need talented, dedicated nurses to address the growing demand for care.
In this guide, you'll learn how to become an OR nurse. It covers:
TV shows like "Nurse Jackie" and "Grey's Anatomy" dramatize what things might be like for RNs working in hospital settings, but what's it really like working in one of the most in-demand medical positions in the country? Here are a few general OR nurse responsibilities:
There are three specialized roles for operating room RNs:
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the following qualities define effective registered nurses:
In addition to these qualities, operating room nurses (according to Payscale.com) should also be:
According to Salary.com, the average salary for an operating room registered nurse is $76,848, with salaries typically ranging from $68,954 to $84,951. Average income by role is:
Where a nurse is located can have a significant impact on overall pay, with the following cities offering the highest pay for OR nurses, per PayScale data:
The minimum educational requirement to become an RN is a two-year Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). You can become a scrub nurse or circulating nurse with an ADN; to become a first assistant, you will need a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN).
While it is possible to get an OR job with an ADN, you should consider pursuing a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing. It will improve your job prospects and will provide you with more options when you look to advance in your career. To improve your options even further, you may continue to a two-year master's in nursing program. An MSN is required to become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), a status required to become a first assistant nurse in the OR.
The U.S. Department of Education's Financial Aid offers information about FAFSA and other sources of aid for your OR nursing education and career path.
In the U.S., including all states, D.C., and the territories, registered nurses are required to obtain and maintain a nursing license. To earn your license, you must:
With almost 2,000 nursing schools in the United States, your choices are nearly limitless. Our guide "10 Considerations to Find the Best Nursing School for You," will help you review top criteria to create a short list of good-fit-for-you schools. They should include:
Other factors to consider include:
U.S. News & World Report ranks the top master's of nursing and doctor of nursing practice programs on an annual basis. For 2020, here are the top three for each:
If you're serious about considering a career in the field, here's some additional reading to help:
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