Surgical Nursing

Find out about surgical nursing as a career and what prerequisites you will need to enter the field. Learn about the job market, potential salary and what education and certification you will need.

Is Surgical Nursing for Me?

Career Details

Surgical nursing, sometimes called perioperative nursing, is a nursing specialty that involves assisting surgeons in the operating room (OR). As a surgical nurse, you might act as a scrub nurse, which involves selecting medical instruments and supplies, as well as passing them to the surgeon. Operating room nurses also help keep bleeding under control during surgery and even suture incisions. You might also be responsible for the overall safety and comfort of the OR environment and the care of the patient before, during and after surgery. To work in surgical nursing, you need a current registered nurse (RN) license.

Required Skills

In general, nursing also requires you to be detail-oriented, responsible and caring. You also need to be emotionally stable and sympathetic, because this field often involves working under pressure and dealing with human suffering. Any type of nurse may work long hours and spend a lot of time on his or her feet, but surgical nurses in particular may stand for long hours in the operating room.

Employment Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), registered nursing as a whole was expected to see a 19% increase in employment from 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov). According to PayScale.com's national salary data, you could expect to earn an hourly pay between $21.65 and $39.72 as a surgical nurse; this range represents the earnings of many operating room RNs as of April 2014.

How Can I Work in Surgical Nursing?

Education

The decision to focus on surgical nursing, like other nursing specialties, is often determined on the job. However, before you can begin working as a nurse, you need to complete a formal training program and get your license. Any approved diploma, associate degree or bachelor's degree program in nursing can qualify you to become a RN, but you're likely to experience the best opportunities for advancement with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). If you want to advance in this field, you might consider becoming an advanced practice nurse who specializes in surgical nursing. This level of nursing has additional education and licensing requirements, however.

Licensing

Once you graduate from an approved nursing program, you'll need to get your RN license. In all 50 states, this entails that you to pass the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-RN. Other licensure requirements, which vary by state, can be determined by contacting the board of nursing for your state.

Certification

Although certification isn't usually required for RNs, some employers may prefer or require it. Several organizations and certifying bodies provide credentials for various nursing specialties. For example, you can pursue Medical-Surgical Nursing Certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (www.nursecredentialing.org). You're eligible if you have an active RN license and full-time work experience in the last two years; you also need to have recently completed at least 2,000 hours of medical-surgical nursing clinical practice.

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