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Difference in atmosphere between OR nurses and Med-Surg nursing?


I was just looking at a post on another thread in which a new grad, only in the first couple months on a med-surg floor, was totally harrassed by her co-workers to horrible proportions. I was wondering what the atmosphere is like in the OR when there is a new grad in training. Do they look upon this new grad as an interloper? I understand that there is a great deal of responsibility and hard work needed, but in comparison are there cliques that shut out other nurses in the OR, like there seems to be on some med-surg floors?

I was told that OR nurses tend to 'eat their young' before I started 3 months ago. Where I work, that is definately NOT the case. I have been very impressed with the courtesies and encouragement from the nurses in my OR. They seem to enjoy teaching and are patient when they need to be. I don't know, maybe I just got lucky. :)

Also, I have heard of other new nurses that have not 'made it' in the OR. From what I've been told, they didn't get very involved in the rooms. One didn't even know how to hook up the suction -after a few months of orientation!!!

The nurses seem to respect someone that's not afraid to jump in and learn. If they see an interest, they accept you and are more than willing to help you.

TracyB,RN, RN

Specializes in jack of all trades, master of none. Has 14 years experience.

I think if you go into the OR with the attitude that you will be eaten alive, you will be. I am also new to the OR, but have found that, for the most part, I have been treated kindly by my new coworkers. I think because OR has such a turnover, OR staff tend to build up a defense mechanism b/c they are so used to people coming into a facility for the training & then they leave. It has to be frustrating training so many new people such a specialized area. There have been a few bad apples in the bunch, but hey, that's their problem. I don't let it bother me.

I was offered a position in an OR out of school but turned it down because of all the nasty OR nurses I had been exposed to in school. One of my friends constantly told me there is a reason they prefer to work with unconscious patients. However, I do know at least 6 of my fellow classmates went into the OR and 5 of them are still there after 4 years, so it can't be all bad. I think it's the luck of the draw sometimes. I think any unit has the potential for catty staff if the conditions are bad because then the nurses get frustrated and take it out on new people. OR isn't any different in that regard.

The OR is a great choice for those who are truly interested in helping their patients in a whole different way than working a med/surg floor. I did not chose to work where my patients are asleep because I didn't want to deal with them. Most OR nurses miss the contact they had with their pt's on the floor. You can expect to work hard and most days long in the OR. Most of the docs are wonderful to work with, a few are pains in the rear. I was warned when I went to the OR how witchy the staff would be--and some of them were and still are, but you have that in any work situation. I'd say that 98.5% of they staff I work with are great!! There is so much to learn--I learn something new every day. As for the staff being mean to students--some are--but most, including myself, are happy to explain all they can to students. On the other hand, some students are there because they have to be--they disappear for an hour or two for lunch or break. When they are in the room it's obvious that they wish they weren't. I had two students in my room who contaminated the sterile field 3 times before lunch. They were observing (I told them to look, but don't touch anything). I turned my back, and when I turned back around one was picking up sterile instruments from the back table with her bare hands. That's why some OR nurses seem mean to students ! As was mentioned above, we like it when new people are willing to jump right in there and want to learn. The nurses are alot more willing to help someone who seems interested.


Specializes in All Surgical Specialties.

I agree with the other posts. OR nurses can be really mean to new people. Some are just plain mean.

I personally love new folks. They help to renew my own interest in surgery. Orientees who jump in, act interested and try to learn are much better received than wall flowers and those who come off as bored intellectuals or know it alls. We all don't eat our young. Just the ones who are tasty and go well with ketchup.;)

I think you either love the OR or you don't. I was planning on going into tele and eventually ICU when I was in nursing school and switched the day I observed in the OR. When I did a 6 week role transition class my senior year most everyone was nice and helpful. Now, four years later I'm in the OR and I love it. I just had a nursing student in one case today and it was her first time she had been in the OR and it was fun to explain things to her. It's different than training a new employee because of their questions and reactions to things. I made her put down her clip board, put on a pair of gloves and stand next to anesthesia for intubation. Even though she didn't actually do anything I thought it woud make her feel a part of the action and increase her interest. Plus it kept her busy while attended to a few things before I could talk with her. I haven't actually worked with any flat out mean nurses in the OR. I ran into some mighty mean ones on the floors though. Some were actually psycho. The nurses I work with seem to be supportive, but as in any place there is a certain amount of cattyness. But, sometimes it can be the morale or management that supports that behavior.

Hi there. First I would like to say hi to everybody out there. I have not logged on to the site in months....

I have now been in the OR for one year........I love it.

I miss my patient contact that I had on the surgical floor I worked before, but not enough to go back.

I mostly want to comment on the fear you have of the people who will be precepting you to a position in the OR.

I heard all the same horror stories that you have. In my experience, it does take a strong person to go to the OR. The folks that orientated me are all very strong personalities. I don't mean that in a bad way. They are passionate about what they do. There is a lot of orientation involved in this job. Do NOT go to the OR if you are not sure you are up for the challange. If you show a lack of interest, you are toast. Nobody likes somebody who calls leaning on a wall "orientating". Get in there. Scrub in, even if just to fiddle with things. Ask questions. Lots of questions. OR nurses love to teach.

Try to keep in mind that everybody there is especially good at something, and you can learn from them......

I learn something everyday. I am rewarded everyday by comments on how far I have come...............good luck


Specializes in Obstetrics, perioperative, Infection Con. Has 25 years experience.

I think the biggest problem in the OR towards new staff, is the lack of trust in the new staffmember. Will he/she do something to mess with things while we aren't watching? I am not saying this is an excuse for bad behaviour however.

I always find I learn and retain new things much better when the teacher is kind and patient. For example in my old place of work I hated Ortho, and as a result was not good at it. Most of the orthopads where terrible and behaved poorly. Now I am working with a great bunch and love doing it, can't get enough of it and am getting really good at it.The little bit of time it takes them to teach me something new will pay of in the long run, since they wont have to tell me again in the future.

I always try to be kind to new staff and nursing students, but must confess I have snapped at times. It can be very hard to remain kind when you are very understaffed and have new people coming and going constantly.It is however much easier to do when the new person is showing interest and is asking questions, I love teaching new people who seem like a sponge in an attempt to absorb all new information.

The people I have the hardest time with are the close to retirement RN's who are so burned out they couldn't be bothered learning new things. If you don't want to do it anymore get out! Seems bad and cold to say that, but I am thinking of my patients, would I want one of my family members to be under the care of one of those nurse? ABSOLUTELY NOT!!!!!



Specializes in All Surgical Specialties.

I couldn't agree with you more about old dogs who won't learn new tricks. Our place seems to be full of them. Surgery is the worst place for folks who don't want to keep up with technological advances.

New personnel renew my enthusiasm for surgery and learning. Bring 'em on!

canoehead, BSN, RN

Specializes in ER. Has 30 years experience.

What about docs (surgeons) with temper tantrums? As a student I heard so much about that, and I was fearful of my one day observing in the OR/RR.

Well, docs have temper tantrums on the floor too......This kind of behavior is not limited to the OR. :(

You just do the best that you can, then hopefully the doc won't follow himself in YOUR room. All you can do is make the best of it. If the behavior turns into abuse.....REPORT IT!!! It is not part of your job description to be a punching bag for extreme verbal and/or physical abuse by anyone.

Many times the docs w/curse during a case, but it's not directed at us.....they are people too and can get frustrated just like the rest of us.


I am also new in the OR but I find that my co-workers are very supportive and very much willing to share their knowledge and expertise in "young OR nurse" like me. They are not eating me, they are molding me. With regards to the surgeons, generally, they are great to work with, sometimes I hear some of them saying not too good words but its not directed to the nurses nor to anybody else, it's just that they are under pressure especially with difficult cases.

I love being a science major and practicing science and the humanities in the OR. Touble shooting, problem solving for the patient and the surgical team is fascinating. Most of the surgery nurses I know have never thought of working in another dept. and when they do they return to OR.

It doesn't matter if you are a new grad or an old hag RN, if you are new to the OR, you are fresh meat. I had to really harden myself when I was the new kid on the block or I would not still be an OR nurse. No question about it, OR nurses eat their young.

I guess the hospital you work in makes a huge difference. I'm a new grad who started in the OR just two weeks ago. From the moment I stepped in the door, people simply could not have been nicer. Everyone has gone WAY out of their way to help me and make me feel welcom. I haven't had a single bad experience.

If at all possible, try to shadow an OR nurse at whatever hospitals you're interested in and get a feel for the OR atmosphere at that hospital. If you don't feel welcomed or comfortable there, stay away!


Specializes in OR, Pediatrics. Has 1 years experience.

I am new to the OR (it's been about 5 weeks) and love it! My preceptors have been helpful and are right there with me guiding me as I prep the patient, position, paperwork, etc. It is an EXTREMELY stressful position with SO MUCH to learn. Don't worry about catty nurses. If it's what you enjoy, then go for it! OR orientation can take 6 mos. and that is a long time for anyone to be working with a new grad. It takes a great deal of patience!!! But as a PP stated, if you are putting for the effort to perform new skills and get in there, then it is easier on you.

Best of luck!

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