How Do I Become an Operating Room Nurse?

Research what it takes to become an operating room nurse. Read on to learn about the education requirements, job duties, employment outlook and average wages to find out if this career is the right one for you. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information at a Glance

It is common for most operating room nurses to earn a degree as a registered nurse (RN) before working in the operating room. Registered nurses use their knowledge of anatomy, physiology, pharmacology and medical surgical nursing to assist doctors and patients in the operating room. The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's of science or an associate's degree in nursing are common, plus licensing is required
Key Responsibilities Critical thinking, detail oriented, emotionally stable
Job Growth (2012-22) 19%*
Average Salary (2014) $69,790*

Source: *Bureau of Labor Statistics

Become a Registered Nurse

Becoming a registered nurse (RN) is the first step a career as an operating room nurse. You can start by earning a diploma, associate's degree or bachelor's degree in nursing. RN programs typically include coursework in anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, medical surgical nursing, health assessment and nursing practice. In addition to coursework, RN programs also include a clinical practicum in which you could work with real patients at a hospital or clinic. After you complete your education, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).

Get a Diploma or Certificate in Perioperative Nursing

Diplomas and certificates in perioperative nursing are available at community colleges and 4-year schools. Many schools require you to be an RN with operating room experience to gain admission; others may require you to have a master's degree in nursing. Perioperative diploma and certificate programs are generally one to two semesters in length and include courses in physical assessment, operating room tools and equipment safety. Most programs include a clinical practicum/internship.

You could also get an advanced certificate in surgical nursing as a Registered Nurse First Assistant (RNFA). You must be an RN and have experience in preoperative nursing for entry into most RNFA programs; some but schools could require you to have an advanced degree in nursing. RNFA programs take about a year to complete and consist mainly of hands-on operating room training in making surgical incisions, controlling bleeding and suturing wounds.

Get Certified

While certification is not required for a career in perioperative nursing, it's a common requirement among employers. The Competency and Credentialing Institute offers two credentials for perioperative nurses, including the Certified Nurse in the Operating Room (CNOR) and Certified Registered First Nurse Assistant (CRNFA) designations. CNOR certification requires an RN license and 2,400 hours of operating room experience; CRNFA certification requires a bachelor's degree, 2,000 hours of RNFA experience and CNOR or Nurse Practitioner certification.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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