What do OR nurses do anyway?

  1. 1
    I just applied to a new grad OR nurse program, but I actually don't really know what OR nurses do. Does it include pre-op and post-op care, or will I be stuck in the operating room all day long handing instruments to a doctor??

    Also, I apologize if this has been asked before. I went back a few pages and didn't see anything.
    Last edit by Joe V on Aug 23, '12
    Joe V likes this.
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  3. 13 Comments so far...

  4. 0
    Before landing my current job, I had shadowed/interviewed for the OR. They explained to me that the RN (at this particular hospital at least) fulfills the scrub role as well as the circulating role.

    As the scrub RN, you pass instruments to the surgeon as well as set up sterile fields/equipment, help dress the surgical team, perform instrument counts with the circulator, communicate with the circulator when items are needed, and assist with passing off specimens (These are a lot of the major tasks that I witnessed but there are much more I'm sure...)

    As the circulator RN, I noticed that they help set up the room with the scrub tech/RN, interview the patients, perform the "time out", keep track of used items for billing purposes, collect specimens and pass them on to pathology, perform instrument counts with scrub and DOCUMENT. There is a lot of documentation for the circulator RN.

    I hope this gives you some kind of idea. It's MUCH MORE than simply passing instruments I assure you. They work very hard in the OR and it's a HUGE learning curve. Lots of equipment/instruments/procedures to learn. They told me it typically takes 6 months to a year to get it.

    Good Luck!!
    Last edit by Joe V on Aug 23, '12
  5. 0
    Is there any direct patient care? That's my goal.
  6. 1
    I'd you can't understand what direct patient care would or could be given in an OR then you should A. Shadow if you haven't ever been in an OR. B. Go work on a patient care unit if u have shadowed in an OR and still have this kind of question.
    BuckyBadgerRN likes this.
  7. 0
    I shadowed a nurse once during a c-section, and I don't remember there being much direct patient care.
  8. 2
    What do you define as direct patient care? OR nurses may not always be at the sterile field touching the patient, but there is certainly patient care going on- positioning to avoid injury/pressure issues, preparing medications, prepping, etc.- and that's only after the patient is asleep. OR nurses also have to gain the trust of a patient in a very short time period when many are beside themselves with nerves.
    Libitina and KelRN215 like this.
  9. 0
    There is still direct patient care. As circulator, you speak with the patient and the family before the surgery. This is a time in which people are typically the most frightened, so your presence makes a huge impact. You reinforce teachings, answer questions, comfort them, and keep family updated throughout longer cases. You are still the number one patient advocate in the room. Sure, it's not as much direct patient care as on the floor, but I've been there, and the amount of "awake" patient care in the OR is the perfect amount for me.
  10. 0
    The lead-in line just cracks me up --- Just worded funny!
  11. 0
    Thanks everyone. From reading what's been said here and talking to a friend of mine, it looks like it's a position I would enjoy.
  12. 2
    Your patient may be asleep for an hour or even much longer, but you are ultimately responsible for that patient on the table. You may not start IVs or directly give medications (other than drawing them up and delivering them to the sterile field) but everything that happens in surgery is something you have to have knowledge of. The surgeon focuses on surgery, anesthesia does their thing, the scrub tech or nurse has their area. As the circulator, you have to have an awareness of the entire room. It's completely different from floor nursing and you'll often hear other nurses say that all we do is count, but it really is so much more. When I was a student, it was difficult to see beyond the circulator counting, charting, or running to get things for the surgeon, but there's so much going on. I know I'm almost constantly silently assessing and reassessing my patient. I'm just coming up on 6 months and, while I'm just off of orientation, it's still a challenge.
    deebaxster and RNGriffin like this.


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