I can't live on OR pay

  1. Hi All,
    I am going to graduate in a year and I think the OR is where I want to be, however I have been looking at my finances and it scares me. Upon graduation, I can get a job for $18/hr in the OR - this puts me at a little over $34,000 for the year. I can't live on this with my financial aid and credit cards (and other expenses). I realize there is call and possible time and a half pay but can I count on this? If I can count on this how much do you think I can expect to make in addition to my $18 at 40 hours a week?

    This makes me nervous because now I feel I have to take a per diem job on the weekends (2x/mo) just to make extra cash. I don't want to do this as I value my free time. I also know that the OR can be a demanding job so I want to rest when I can rest. I am very much the work hard - rest hard type.

    I realize that people across the country have different pay scales but I was hoping that someone could maybe tell me the percentage they receive over and above their regular 40 hour work week. Or maybe the dollar amount you receive in relation to your regular hourly pay. This way I could do some number crunching of my own to see what is in store for me when I graduate.

    Thank you to everyone for reading my post - I am a little nervous about my financial life after school.
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  2. 11 Comments

  3. by   shodobe
    Every place is different and each hospital is different in how much OT one can expect. Where you are located is the most important and from what you said you were going to make an hour you are not on the west coast and not in California. Everybody makes different amounts depending on how much they want to work. Also, it is hard to judge what you could make because you have no experience and you are starting at the bottom. Some OR nurses make what you make while others can get easily into the 6 figure bracket, but with LOTS of experience.
  4. by   TallGirlAni
    You might want to consider a year of med/surge first, then go to the OR. The pay scale might be a little higher and you may be able to work a PM shift for a shift differential. Then weekends may have a differential, and when you do overtime, perhaps a night shift or two, you will even get a higher differential. These add up in the long run.

    Also, when looking for jobs, inquire about loan repayment programs. That may weigh heavily in where you decide to work.

    One year under your belt is great, because then you can do travel nursing. You might even be able to do agency work, and then working in the OR will be to your advantage at a higher pay scale. Even if you do not, having a year under your belt will definitely increase your pay rate per hour when going to the OR after one year of med/surge.

    Having the year of med/surge may also give you a much more of a solid foundation as a nurse. If you do not like the OR after a few years, you may feel more confident in going to other areas because you know how to do much more than OR work.

    Just a suggestion, but please consider this when weighing the pros and cons of your decision. One year goes by pretty fast. I am still in my first year as a new grad and time is flying. I do not regret this year in med/surge and I wanted to do this instead of going directly in the ICU (as I will be doing after this year is up). I just think of this year as one more year of school without the studying and exams, but getting paid for it, instead. Just another way of looking at it.

    If OR is what you think you want for the rest of your career, then what is one more year, anyway?

    Just a thought.....

    And it can give you a chance to play catch up with finances. Talk to some OR nurses and find out what they might have to say about the med/surge first year, and then, also talk to some of your professors about this. You may be surprised to find out what they have to say.
  5. by   nf nurse
    I am a director of an OR and I agree with the others. At least a year of med/surg will be very helpful. I did 5 years of med/surg, (mostly post surgical), before making the move to the OR. The skills you use are very different in these areas but the experience you get on "the floor" will help you anywhere you go. Not sure where you are but I start new nurses at about $22/hr here. Also you can expect about 3-6 months orientation which means not much OT or call where the extra money is. Once the orientation is over you can take extra call to make more. Most OR nurses will gladly give up some call. Good luck, would like to know what you eventually decide to do.
  6. by   OKJen
    Thank you for all of your replies! I am currently doing an externship in women's services (I thought that's where I wanted to be but have thinking about my first love - surgery lately). I am mostly placed in Mom Baby which is floor work experience. I know I will have a job in women's services upon graduation but not sure its where I want to be.

    I have heard a lot about doing a year in med surg first before going into the OR but I hate to say I am really not interested in that. I did not enjoy my clincials much and wanted to do something a little more specialized hence my interest in women's services. I completely fell in love with OR during my clinical experience and want to get back to that feeling again.

    The OR orientation time makes sense when it comes to no chance for extra money - why would they put a new grad on call at the very beginning during the learning process? I never thought about that - so I appreciate you bringing it up.

    How about PACU? Would that be good experience for a new grad before getting into surgery? Do they hire new grads? Would that also be a good weekend job to supplement the OR pay? Thanks again.
    Jen
  7. by   TallGirlAni
    Yes, but how many surgeries are occurring on the weekend? That is something that you will want to look into when applying for jobs.
  8. by   tariet
    I am the clinical manager of a 9 room surgery and can tell you that we definately are doing surgeries on the weekend. I don't know how other hospitals work but we put our new OR nurses (experienced or not) on call with another nurse for at least 2 months (of course much longer for a "new" nurse). Coming into the OR with no experience isn't like starting anywhere else. There is a much longer orientation period. But once your on your own the call and room finish time adds up very quickly. Where I work we have a 'season' from Nov to May and basically everyone averages at least 10-15 hours overtime (including call time) a week. Add this to seasonal bonuses and it's not hard to almost double your base yearly pay. Of couse it will be differnent in other areas of the country. Right now there is a major shortage of OR nurses in my area so we're offering larger starting base pay with even a small amount of experience. Remember it's an extremely specialized area and by dedicating yourself there you are closing the door to some other areas that you still have open to you if you did the year of med-surg. Besides med surg offers experience that is invaluable to a nurse (new or not).
  9. by   Tweety
    The $18.00 might be a new grad or intern salary and you might get a raise fiarly quickly. Here our new grads start out at $19.00 as an RN I, but after orientation and passing boards, they get a raise.

    If you are going to consider med-surg. Then for extra money work the night shift. There is usually a few dollars an hour extra for working nights.

    Good luck to you.
  10. by   Marie_LPN, RN
    How about PACU? Would that be good experience for a new grad before getting into surgery? Do they hire new grads?
    Our PACU nurses have prior experience in ICU. Our PACU will not hire new grads.
  11. by   ortess1971
    You seem like you know where you want to be, so I am going to say that you don't need the year of med/surg. We currently have new trainees from the floors and by their own admission, the floors are nothing like the OR. I have seen new grads do very well in the OR and I have seen floor nurses do poorly. It depends on the person and how well they pick up new skills and how adaptable they are. You will most likely make the same amount as a new grad no matter where you work and orientation does fly by so you will be making call pay in no time. Also, in the OR you don't have to work as many holidays(usually one major and one minor a year at my hosp.) and your patient to nurse ratio is 1:1. As you can tell, if you know where you want to be, I'm not an advocate of wasting a year in an area where you have little interest. The "year of med/surg" is one of those sacred cows that refuses to die. I think many hospitals try to tell new grads that they should go to med/surg first because that's where the highest turnover and burnout occurs. Put it this way-I have seen more nurses looking to leave the floors. I can count on one hand the OR nurses I have known that have left the OR to go back to the floors(2 to be exact). I wouldn't even worry that you won't have skills should you choose to leave the OR. There are nursing refresher courses and with the shortage, they're desperate. I knew an OR nurse that after 20 years in surgery, wanted to try the ER-she was hired there with no problem. Follow your interest and passion and you won't go wrong.
  12. by   OKJen
    Thanks Ortess! I was hoping that someone would say what you said. I am 35 years old and will graduate when I am 36. I feel like I don't have time to play around - I want to get my career started. I want to ask the hiring OR manager about extra pay (call and overtime), but I feel that it is inappropriate. So, that's why I have chosen to ask the people on this forum - maybe I can figure it out from the responses I get.

    I have been in contact with the hiring manager and he was so awesome - telling me to contact him in December so he can help me get my career started in the right direction! He is so pro-OR and seems to be supportive of those who want to get into surgery. I feel good about getting a job in the OR just nervous about the pay. Unfortunately, I am single and have no other income to fall back on so I have to figure something out.

    Thanks to everyone for your responses! You guys are really making me think - this is good. It's nice to hear all options since I have been swirling different thoughts around in my head for some time now. I want to make this happen - there's gotta be a way

    Have a great week. Jen
  13. by   Padvocate
    Quote from OKJen
    Hi All,
    I am going to graduate in a year and I think the OR is where I want to be, however I have been looking at my finances and it scares me. Upon graduation, I can get a job for $18/hr in the OR - this puts me at a little over $34,000 for the year. I can't live on this with my financial aid and credit cards (and other expenses). I realize there is call and possible time and a half pay but can I count on this? If I can count on this how much do you think I can expect to make in addition to my $18 at 40 hours a week?

    This makes me nervous because now I feel I have to take a per diem job on the weekends (2x/mo) just to make extra cash. I don't want to do this as I value my free time. I also know that the OR can be a demanding job so I want to rest when I can rest. I am very much the work hard - rest hard type.

    I realize that people across the country have different pay scales but I was hoping that someone could maybe tell me the percentage they receive over and above their regular 40 hour work week. Or maybe the dollar amount you receive in relation to your regular hourly pay. This way I could do some number crunching of my own to see what is in store for me when I graduate.

    Thank you to everyone for reading my post - I am a little nervous about my financial life after school.

    As an OR Director I say if the OR is your goal why not start there. Even if you were to gain one year of med/surg experience I don't believe it will prepare you for the OR. The OR is unlike any other responsibility as an RN, first off the ratio is 1/1 as a new grad that is a good thing, you can take your time and learn right. The OR will give you a mentor for one on one learning for your orientation period of at least 6 months. During those 6 months there won't be any call or overtime, but after that I am certain people will be throwing overtime and call time.
    Please remember that overtime and money will come with experience, be patience when it comes it might not stop. Your experience will pay overtime. Be diedicated, positive and a little sponge, absorb all you can and if you don't like your mentor request a new one.

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