Operating Room Nurse Requirements

Research what it takes to become an operating room nurse. Learn about education requirements, job duties and licensure requirements to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Operating Room Nurse?

Operating room nurses assist surgeons. They may work in clinics or hospitals, and are involved in providing patient care. They help patients prepare for a procedure and provide information about the surgery. They monitor the patient's vital signs, give them medication, update the patient's charts, pass the surgeon equipment that they need and assist with life-saving medical procedures when necessary. They also help patients understand what they need to do after surgery to facilitate recovery.

Degree Required Post-secondary diploma, associate's or bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Nursing
Key Skills Attention to detail, organization, physical stamina
Licensure and/or Certification Licensure as RN is required by all states
Job Growth (2014-2024) 16%*
Median Salary (2015) $67,490*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Duties Will I Have as an Operating Room Nurse?

The Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (formerly the Association of Operating Room Nurses) states that this role calls for you to assist with surgical procedures, administer various medications (such as via injections or IVs) and advocate for your patients as you provide direct care. You need to understand infection and sepsis management, basic surgical procedures and risk management (www.aorn.org).

What Education and Credentials Do I Need?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), you need to earn an associate degree, diploma or baccalaureate degree in nursing to become a registered nurse (www.bls.gov). Some schools offer accelerated learning for those who already have a bachelor's degree in another field; these programs may last between 12 and 18 months. Your studies include biology, anatomy, physiology, chemistry, psychology and nutrition. You also receive supervised, on-site clinical training. In additional to technical procedures, you practice interpersonal skills in order to deal compassionately with patients and their families, as well as supervise other staff when needed.

According to the BLS, all 50 states and the District of Columbia require aspiring nurses to graduate from approved programs and pass a national licensing examination to become registered nurses. In addition to passing the National Council Licensure Examination, many states have independent requirements for licensing.

What Happens After Licensure?

New nurses begin training in various operating rooms during clinical training and may then choose to specialize based on their own interests and job opportunities. Settings can include hospital operating rooms, delivery rooms, ambulatory surgical centers, military hospitals, infection control centers, physicians' offices and clinics. As a new nurse in the operating room, you administer medications, plan and assess patient care, serve as a team leader and teach patients about postsurgical self-care.

Will I Need Continuing Education?

For all RNs, continuing education is a must to maintain a license to practice. Continuing education allows you to further explore specialties within operating room nursing, such as anesthesia, ambulatory care or sepsis management.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Surgical technologists have a lot in common with operating room nurses. These professionals prepare the operating room before surgery. They make sure that all the equipment that's needed is stocked and sterilize the room and medical equipment. They also help prepare patients for the surgery, and may work in the operating room during the surgery, passing medical equipment to the surgeon. Surgical technologists need a postsecondary certificate or associate's degree.

Veterinary technology is another similar field but working with animals. These technologists need a bachelor's degree and assist veterinarians performing surgery on animals. They may be involved in preparing the animal's owner for the surgery, preparing the animal for surgery and providing medical supplies and equipment to the veterinarian during the procedure.

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