OR nurse as a new grad

  1. 0
    I've just finished my first year of nursing.
    I haven't had my Med-Surg rotation just yet.
    As far as I know, I will only spend very few hours in OR for my clinical rotation.
    And, I'm very interested in becoming an OR nurse after graduation.
    I'd do everything in a heartbeat to be an OR nurse be it circulating nurse or scrub nurse.
    My ultimate goal is to become a registered nurse first assistant (RNFA)

    I have 3 questions:
    1 - How to gain more experience in the OR as a nursing student?
    2 - Will getting a certificate as a surgical assistant will boost the chances?
    3 - Is there any test that I can study and take as a new grad to become an OR nurse ?

    Thank you very much for your input,

    Looking forward to hearing from you.:redpinkhe

    Best,
    Judy
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  3. 20 Comments so far...

  4. 1
    1- How to gain more experience in the OR as a nursing student?

    You could work as an ORA (help with turnover, transport patients, restocking, things like that). Some hospitals will allow volunteers in certain perioperative areas. We have one who is in PACU and communicates with the waiting room about when patients get to recovery or leave for their rooms. Some hospitals will hire nurse externs in the OR, but require that you be at least a junior nursing student.

    2 - Will getting a certificate as a surgical assistant will boost the chances?

    Depends on the hospital. Some use only surgical techs to scrub. Others have a mix, and still others are only RNs (these aren't very common, and in my experience occur more with free standing ambulatory surgery centers). If the hospital you would apply to would hire nurses to scrub, then this would give you an edge. Where I work, we have an overabundance of STs, and an RN who knows how to scrub wouldn't really have an edge over one who doesn't.

    3 - Is there any test that I can study and take as a new grad to become an OR nurse ?

    Not really. CNOR (certified nurse of the operating room) is the only certification specific to the OR, and it requires 2 years of experience before you can apply to take it. CPR and ACLS may give you a small edge, but not much.


    Also, keep in mind that depending on where you want to work, some hospitals require experience in med-surg before you can specialize. Don't forget that you can always ask to shadow an OR nurse for a day- those "observations" you get in nursing school really don't tell the whole story.
    judycollingwell likes this.
  5. 1
    1- How to gain more experience in the OR as a nursing student?

    You could work as an ORA (help with turnover, transport patients, restocking, things like that). Some hospitals will allow volunteers in certain perioperative areas. We have one who is in PACU and communicates with the waiting room about when patients get to recovery or leave for their rooms. Some hospitals will hire nurse externs in the OR, but require that you be at least a junior nursing student.

    2 - Will getting a certificate as a surgical assistant will boost the chances?

    Depends on the hospital. Some use only surgical techs to scrub. Others have a mix, and still others are only RNs (these aren't very common, and in my experience occur more with free standing ambulatory surgery centers). If the hospital you would apply to would hire nurses to scrub, then this would give you an edge. Where I work, we have an overabundance of STs, and an RN who knows how to scrub wouldn't really have an edge over one who doesn't.

    3 - Is there any test that I can study and take as a new grad to become an OR nurse ?

    Not really. CNOR (certified nurse of the operating room) is the only certification specific to the OR, and it requires 2 years of experience before you can apply to take it. CPR and ACLS may give you a small edge, but not much.


    Also, keep in mind that depending on where you want to work, some hospitals require experience in med-surg before you can specialize. Don't forget that you can always ask to shadow an OR nurse for a day- those "observations" you get in nursing school really don't tell the whole story.
    judycollingwell likes this.
  6. 0
    Thank you very much for your insightful reply
  7. 1
    I have been a surgical tech for 12 years and now im a nursing student. So...

    Try and find a periop course at your hospital. If you can try and do a job shadow you would be able to meet potential managers ect. OR nursing is different from all other types of nursing..so make sure you LOVE it before you invest all your time and energy into it.
    If you cant find an OR job right out of school try and get some good experience by doing Med-surg floor or maybe surgical ICU...you may have to work your way up to that!
    Good luck!
    judycollingwell likes this.
  8. 1
    Hello, I was in the same situation as you, wanting to be an OR nurse after graduation. I shadowed in th OR & PACU numerous times, but the hospitals I applied to only wanted experienced nurses. Now, 2 years later with med/surg experience I have an interview for an OR nurse position. I'm stating this because sometimes things you desire so greatly will take time. Not saying you will not get a position in the OR after graduating, but if not, make the position you do get a learning tool for things to come. Best wishes
    judycollingwell likes this.
  9. 1
    Hey Judy,

    I think I can help you but I am a bit confused. You asked if getting a certificate as a surgical assistant would be beneficial in your quest to become an OR nurse. Do you mean a surgical tech? If so, then nah-it would require additional schooling and you already have your plate full with nursing school.

    To gain more experience in the OR, I agree with Poet; you could work as an ORA (however this might be frustrating for you because it is BACKBREAKING work and I have seen plenty of ORAs who don't like their jobs, don't want to be there, and are more than happy to have you do most of the work) or you could work as a unit clerk just to become familiar with the OR and the flow of things. I was a unit clerk while I was in nursing school and it gave me a HUGE leg up when I graduated. I already knew the expectations on the unit, was familiar with a plethora of medications and their functions, knew the docs, nurses and assistants. The nurses on the unit knew that I was interested in learning everything that I could while I was working, and let me follow them when it was slow and ask a gazillion questions. One of the docs actually allowed me to scrub in and observe.

    There aren't any tests that you can take to better prepare you. You CAN however, join AORN as a student-the rates are soo much less expensive as a student, and you will be able to get on their website and also get the monthly journals. Besides, when you apply to the OR and they see that you are already an AORN member, they will be so impressed!

    Good luck, Judy and keep your dream in focus!
    SandraCVRN likes this.
  10. 2
    I knew even before I began nursing school I wanted to be an OR. It's definitely possible but you have to seek out the experience. You should seek out clinical experiences in the OR. Ask your clinical instructors if you can do additional OR observations.

    Start interviewing your last semester of nursing school for OR positions. Find hospital that have an OR new grad program that should be approximately 3-6 months long. It's best to learn to scrub and circulate. A lot of hospital will not take new grads into the OR but some will. You have to research and be flexible. You will find one for you.

    I recommend you join AORN as a student member. It's $50 a year, and completely worth it.
    Kiro686 and judycollingwell like this.
  11. 1
    Many OR's are offering new grad residencies. Start looking now for hospitals near you. Look for Periop 101 courses or Versant residencies. They both are great. Good luck.
    judycollingwell likes this.
  12. 3
    I just graduated May 2010. I interviewed and got the O.R. internship position in a hospital in North Dallas. I worked it for 2 months and immediately knew it wasn't for me. All those rumors about O.R. nurses not REALLY being nurses felt true for me. I didn't think I would miss the patient interaction or loss of many skills but it quickly dawned on me I was missing them. Most nursing school programs don't allow but one or two days in the O.R. which is not adequate to gain insight into the happenings in the surgical suite. We all worked our butts off for the skills we learned in nursing school and I hated to think that was all going to waste. Our circulating nurses aren't even allowed to draw blood, we have to call pathology down to draw blood when you have a perfectly licensed and skilled nurse standing right there to do it. It's a waste of resource. O.R. just has a very narrow pathway for development and advancement. If RNFA is what you KNOW you want to do than you are on the right track and I encourage it. But you are in a spot in your education that you can find out what it's really like before you commit to it. I say do everything you can to shadow a circulating nurse, or maybe sweet talk an instructor into substituting one of your Med/Surg days for an extra day in the O.R. It is a whole other world that needs exploring before diving in, but that's my opinion based on what I went through. I now work in the CDU (clinical decision unit) to advance my skills and give myself more options for advancement in the future. This is not to discourage you from going into O.R. many people fall in love with it, I loved the family like atmosphere and fun of the O.R. but I don't think it's the best place for a new grad who has no experience except what they learned in nursing school. But I'm but one experience and one person, go and researched and explore it, then make your decision. Good Luck with the rest of school.


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