CNAs in the Operating Room

  1. I'm an RN in the Operating Room, but while in school, like lots of students, worked as a CNA. At the time I didn't realize there were CNA jobs in the Operating Room. We actually call them Operating Room Assistants. The operating room assistant or operating room attendant shouldn't be confused with a surgical technologist. Think of the surgical technologist like an LVN and the operating room assistant like the CNA.

    This can be a great option for people considering working as an MA or CNA and want to work somewhere other than the floor. The job down in the OR is definitely different than on the floor or in the office.

    So what do our operating room assistants do?
    They transport patients from the floor down to the operating room.
    They assist the RNs and Surgeons with positioning and prepping the patient for surgery.
    They assist in emergencies by getting blood from the blood bank for the anesthesiologist to give.
    They take specimens from the operating room to the pathology department for help with cancer diagnosis.
    They help turn over the room between surgeries. This mean they help clean the room but more importantly they help configure the equipment needed for surgery. Depending on what kind of surgery we are doing, special equipment needs to be set up in the OR, and the operating room assistant helps with this.
    Some hospitals have the operating room assistant scrub into surgery to hold retractors during surgery.

    The operating room is fast paced, the operating room assistants work very hard, but there is also much more of a team in the OR. I think it's pretty common for CNAs to get back injuries from heavy patients, but in the OR generally you are moving these patients with the assistance of the RN, surgeon and anesthesiologist.

    Base pay is about the same for an operating room assistant as it is for a CNA, but often times take call in the OR. So in our OR, the operating room assistants work an 8 or 12 hr shift, but then at night or on the weekends will get $6.50/hr standby in case of added surgeries. So while you're on call you can be doing what ever you want but just need to be at the hospital within 30 minutes if you get called. And if you do get called you get paid time and half for the hours you work. So at the end of the day, the operating room assistants make a fair bit more than the CNAs on the floor do.

    You don't actually have to have your CNA certification for the job, but CPR is necessary. Then the training can either be on the job, or the ISIP operating room assistant course.

    And... You get to see a lot of cool surgeries....
    Last edit by sandiegojames on Oct 6, '13
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    About sandiegojames

    Joined: Mar '07; Posts: 42; Likes: 23


  3. by   Guy in Babyland
    I did that job in the OR for 2 years
  4. by   Nathifalr26
    Interesting information. Thanks!
  5. by   juniperpearl
    Thank you for the information! I'm almost through CNA I & am leaning towards OR Nursing after nursing school & this would be a great introduction!
  6. by   sandiegojames
    @juniperpearl - If you are interested in OR nursing after nursing school you should definitely explore it. OR nurse internships can be difficult to get, but if you are already in the department, it really opens up opportunities.
  7. by   juniperpearl
    I'm so excited to learn there's a place for CNA's in the OR! I can see how already being in there could help me get in as an RN! Thank you
  8. by   Madras
    I'm so glad you wrote this post! This is my exact job right now! I work nights and I'm in my last year of nursing school! I can honestly admit that I've never been excited about floor nursing, OR nursing was always on my radar.

    When I was offered this position I jumped At it because I know how hard it is for new grads to get into a specialty like the operating room. I love my job and I love the teamwork in the OR, this is where I plan to stay and they plan to keep me. The RN"s, techs, CRNA's and residents are always showing me new things and are very supportive of my transition next summer. I also get a lot of study time in when there aren't any cases for the night.

    I'm also grateful for the constant team lifting. This is good for the longevity of your back, you will never be left alone.

    I also spend a lot of time with PACU, recovering patients and discharging them.

    The OR is a great place to start a nursing career! I'm slowly researching my options for CNOR, RNFA, CRNA etc. but that's much later down the line. I'm happy as a clam!
  9. by   MedAsst Jayel
    Wow, interesting information! Thank you for posting it..
  10. by
    i learned something new, thanks for posting.
  11. by   sandiegojames
    It isn't actually required to have a CNA cert to be an operating room assistant, of course it helps, but for those who move to a new state or have had their cert expire its a good option to paying for a new certification course. is a good resource for information on it as well. Considering there currently are about 50 million surgeries performed each year in the US, I think the job market looks pretty good...
    Last edit by sandiegojames on Oct 21, '13