Newer RN - How do I get an OR job without experience in that area??

  1. HI Nurse Beth,

    I'm a newer RN, just under 2 years experience. Over a year of that was on a 'Major Surgery' unit that specialized in taking care of post op patients until discharge. The other 10 months of my experience was on a med/surg orthopedics and telemetry unit. I loved being a nurse for surgical patients! I recently relocated to San Diego - i would love to get a job in pre-op, OR or pacu or even ambulatory surgery center- however everyone wants you to already have experience in these areas- how are you supposed to get experience if no one will hire without it? it's very discouraging and I don't want to do a general med/surg floor- what are some options and how do i ever get that experience?


    Dear Wants OR,

    That’s a tough one, because it seems OR and periop areas are always looking for experience, and often do not take new grads, or even RNs with a couple of years of floor experience, like you.

    If I was trying to get into the OR/peri-op area, I would pull out all the stops. I would get a job in a hospital, and then find a way to introduce myself to the PACU and OR managers.

    I would take a job on a general floor, knowing it would be temporary with the rationale being to get my foot in the door and start to make contacts.

    Another option is to try to hire into an op invasive areas such as GI Lab, because sometimes the manager is closely affiliated with the surgical areas.

    Alternatively, I would try to get a job in an outpatient ambulatory surgical setting to get experience. Don’t give up, especially with your passion. There has to be the right job in San Diego for you.

    Best wishes,

    Nurse Beth

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    About Nurse Beth, MSN, RN

    Joined: Mar '07; Posts: 1,355; Likes: 4,043


  3. by   Rose_Queen
    It could also be that you are searching at the wrong time of year. Because OR orientation is a long process (a good orientation should be 6-9 months), they may only be offered for those without experience once or twice a year. You might want to keep an eye out around the times the local nursing programs graduate. You also may have to get your foot in the door at a facility first before you can get into the OR- at least that way, you'll have access to internal applicant only postings.
  4. by   LessValuableNinja
    New nurse residencies in this area take new graduates for OR residencies. You've missed the boat on that one. However, there are residencies that will also take experienced nurses. In this area, there are a couple hospitals that do. It's worth searching through major hospital system job postings periodically for perioperative nurse residency and OR nurse residency to see if any of them take experienced nurses. Additionally, you'll find that networking opens up positions that would otherwise not be accessible from job postings. If you're not already an ANA member or state association that's connected to ANA (IE, for me, that's Texas Nurses Association / TNA), attend meetings, and meet people who work in periop. Talk to them about your desires. Some may offer advice. If you're particularly fortunate, one may introduce you to a friend of a friend, or may be a hiring manager that might consider you for lateral training in periop. Finally, on the networking front, consider periop nursing organizations to attend meetings and network. AORN I believe is the largest one.
  5. by   BouldeRN
    Hey Wants OR!

    I felt exactly the same way that you do. OR nursing is a unique and totally different type of nursing that they don't teach in nursing schools.
    Good news!!! - there is a professional organization to help you become an OR nurse: AORN, the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses. Contact them at They have a OR RN program called PeriOp 101, which is basically a 6-8 month training program. Typically a hospital will accept 6 or so RNs into this residency. Ask AORN which hospitals have upcoming offerings.
    It's so worth the effort. I absolutely love my job. Just one patient at a time and I work with a team of doctors, residents, techs. I'm the nonsterile room manager who keeps all the balls in the air and the patient safe.
    Best of luck.