Help getting in OR

Specialties Operating Room


Hello all!

I have been interested in working OR long before I became a nurse. I currently work on a busy ortho/neuro floor. I have been a nurse for three years. I have been trying for over a year to get into the OR where I work. I have submitted application after application for a position when it becomes available. I have recently shadowed in OR and submitted my application. I even spoke to our OR director who said she would get with the OR manager and set up a "behavioral interview". The holiday week came and I hadn't heard from anyone. I chalked it up to it being a holiday week and tried to be patient. It has been almost a month but I finally got the rejection message of "Thank you for your interest in..." I am beyond frustrated. I have changed my resume many times in hopes it would get picked up. I am sad and frustrated. Any advice is very much appreciated.

As a busy ward nurse, you have a lot of contact and interaction with patients and their families. As an OR nurse, you will have none of that. You will be an umpire of sorts, seeing to the adherence of policy and procedure. Patient contact will be 10% of what you do and procedural orthodoxy and documentation will be your life. Understand this fully before coming to the OR.

Specializes in OR, Nursing Professional Development.
As a busy ward nurse, you have a lot of contact and interaction with patients and their families. As an OR nurse, you will have none of that. You will be an umpire of sorts, seeing to the adherence of policy and procedure. Patient contact will be 10% of what you do and procedural orthodoxy and documentation will be your life. Understand this fully before coming to the OR.

I don't think that's the type of advice the OP was looking for...

OP, what does your employment record look like with your employer? Do you have disciplinary actions on file? Have your reviews been less than stellar? Is your current manager looking to keep you around and not giving honest input?

You may want to start looking outside your current facility. Have your resume reviewed by another set of eyes.

Thank you for this. I am fully aware of not having as much patient contact as I do now. I have no disciplinary actions on file. My DON has told me I am an excellent nurse whose patients are always satisfied with my care. I did ask if there was anything on record when I spoke to him (DON) as he was my manager temporarily while they looked to replace my previous manager. I have looked and applied to positions outside my facility. I did get one call back but unfortunately the facility that called was looking for a nurse with trauma experience. I have tweeked my resume numerous times and even looked up example resumes. I am trying not to give up hope. Thank you Rose_Queen. í ½í¸Š

Specializes in Tele, Interventional Pain Management, OR.

Offlabel, while this may not be the advice OP was looking are exactly right, and it's important to know this before transitioning to OR.

I personally do NOT love circulating RN's hyper-focus on "procedural orthodoxy and documentation"--thank you, Offlabel, for explaining the circulator role quite concisely.

So I recently transitioned (within the same organization) from circulating to working with trauma/general surgeons on the outpatient side. I really enjoy being that pre- and post-op point of contact for my patients, along with the patient education/triage opportunities. And one of the surgeons wants me to scrub eventually. I'll have the best of both worlds from my perspective.

OP, you have an awesome foundation for OR circulating if that's your goal. You will have a deeper knowledge of medications and diseases/pathologies than many new OR-only nurses, and this will enhance your patient care. You will know, with a quick glance at the patient's chart, what to bring up with anesthesia (who is REALLY SUPER IN-CHARGE of intra-op patient care). That knowledge can make a huge difference for patient outcomes in surgery.

Just understand that circulating is A LOT of running after supplies during the case, herding vendors before the case (implants, intra-op monitoring depending on service line), counting before and during the case, and charging for stuff--at least at my facility, the RN circulator documents all supplies/suture/etc in the picklist for inventory as well as charging purposes.

One thing many OR RNs enjoy is the 1:1 ratio, and I understand that completely, having worked on a crazy cardiac tele floor with a 6:1 ratio. Although I would research upcoming surgical patients for the day (and preference cards/case carts) during longer cases because I didn't want to have a bad turnover time...sigh. Hyper-emphasis on room turnover time is another frustration unique to OR.

The takeaway...every specialty has its advantages and disadvantages. One of the best parts of nursing is our ability to transition, and find the synergy that works best for us and our patients.

If there are only 4-6 ORs in your facility, then the manager may only be looking for seasoned OR nurses who are able to circulate and scrub. Scrub experience is needed, especially in a smaller facility which may require the nurse to be able to give breaks to both circulator and scrub. More importantly, if any traumas come in, the OR nurse should be able to assist in either role.

I believe your best bet would be to take classes for scrubbing, possibly shadow a scrub at your current facility, or apply to a surgery center near you that will teach you this. Another option would be to find the largest hospital within your area and apply to the OR there as larger OR departments typically have scrub techs to save on costs.

I didn't notice if you already had any experience scrubbing or circulating in OR and you didn't mention if the application was a training (grow your own program). If you do not have prior experience, you might want to find a Periop 101 or grow your own program in another facility. Also, know that it is very expensive and time consuming to train and OR nurse and so typically those who make the decisions may put off "newbies" depending on what staff support they have for training. It is a demanding field and it isn't all paperwork and running. It does require a true advocacy role to protect the patient from physical, emotional and spiritual harm at the most vulnerable time in their lives. It is an area that alllows for other experiences besides circulating. I have been a certified periop nurse for years and the "team" approach can be wonderful. Don't go into it if you have thin skin. It's like a family, you have to work with the same people every day...and you have to work interdependently to have the best patient outcomes. I have worked in large facilities and small facilities as well as outpatient settings. To be successful you need excellent communication skills and the ability to speak up when others who have more credentials and larger egos don't always agree with your assessment...otherwise you are just a gopher and clerk.

Good Luck.

Thank you all for the information. I am currently employed in the largest hospital in my area, a level 2 trauma center. As previously mentioned, I have been shadowing circulating nurses in our OR. I received a text message from the OR director last week regarding a position. I am now waiting to find out if the position was approved so that I may interview for it. I also received a call for an interview at the only Children's hospital in my area. I interview for the children's hospital today! 😲 I am so nervous!

Check out - lots of resources and support as well as performance standards.

Sorry to hear about this, but would like to help in any way possible. Have you consulted a nursing resume counselor?

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Hey there - my friend will be opening her state-of-the-art plastic & reconstructive surgery practice in Dallas in September. She is looking for a scrub nurse who she can train from the ground up and eventually have her become her first assist for all of her major cases.

I saw this post and your location, and thought I might pass it on.

Thank you for that information. I am located in South Texas and am not looking to move just yet. I appreciate the thought!

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