How does working in the OR affect your body?


I ask this because I have mild scoliosis and have had chronic back pain since I was a child. Standing for any period of time absolutely kills me, so unfortuately I know I will be in pain wherever I work. But the OR is where I am interested in working and I spent 7 hours there shadowing and was about in tears by the end of the day. My back was screaming and my feet were in pain and every muscle was tense.

If I were to work there, would I have the ability to leave and take a break (AKA sitting down or stretching) for several minutes when I need it?

What do you do to prepare yourself for hours of standing? Do you adjust to it? How does your feet take it?

Also, what are the hours like? Are you usually on a set schedule and know you what days you are free ahead of time?

The reason I ask is because I have horses and they are a lifelong hobby and also investment of time and money.

I want to find a career in nursing supports my love of the outdoors and allows me to "have a life" and not be a slave to my job (meaning, an ideal schedule that allows me to still get outside & away from work). I want to have time to ride, go to barrel races, care for my animals, and enjoy my life. I'm very open to all areas of nursing, so please give me your thoughts.


1,221 Posts

Specializes in Peri-Op. Has 10 years experience.

If you really want or and need to sit a while during cases the pick a service line that has longer cases. In general though you will be on your feet running more in the or than as a medsurg type nurse.


225 Posts

Schedule-wise, we get ours about 2 weeks ahead of the following month. I work a combination of 7-3, 11-7 or 3-11 (I'm fairly new so I don't have a good schedule yet). So in reality, you will know your days off, but where I work there is "late stay" about once/week, where they are able to keep us until 6 pm. There is also call, which will keep you tied to your phone in case you are called in (we have 30 minutes to get to work). Call is variable.

I'm just going to give you my opinion based on my experience in the OR as far as the rest goes ~ OR nursing is very hard on the body. There is no doubt about it. During the long cases, some of the nurses sit on stools but most of the time, we are standing. We cannot just leave when our bodies want us to and sit and stretch (can't see why you couldn't stretch and move around a little during the case, of course). But for the most part, we are standing or running for things.

My feet have adjusted just fine after I splurged and bought a $100 pair of decent shoes. Good fitting shoes are imperative!!!!!! I skimped and had cheapies for the first couple months and was in pain every day after work.

My knees, however, have not faired as well.........but I have bad genes (bursitis) so it's just something I deal with the best I can.

As far as preparation for the OR, it's like anything else....the stronger your muscles, the better off you will be. Considering you already have chronic pain, I for one wouldn't recommend OR nursing. But, as you say, you will have pain wherever you work. OR nursing is great in that good nurses enjoy a fair amount of job security and are in high demand.

I look forward to hearing other responses. I wish you the best, OHSUstudent!

canesdukegirl, BSN, RN

8 Articles; 2,543 Posts

Specializes in Trauma Surgery, Nursing Management. Has 14 years experience.

I love my job, but it is very hard on my body. Standing for a prolonged period of time is typical. I stand for about 4-5 hours at a time when I am scrubbed in (and no, you can't take breaks unless someone comes to relieve you, but we are short staffed and do not get breaks), and on my feet for 10-12 hours of the day when I am circulating. I rarely sit because there is so much to run for, prepare for and check on, so I just stand the whole time. I have Dansko shoes, and would be in tears daily if I did not invest in these wonderful shoes! I also wear TED hose every single day. It is hard on your body, and if you cannot take standing in one place for at LEAST two hours (I am thinking specifically if you were assigned to a spinal case, where you absolutely can't move around much, as you are on a step stool) then OR nursing may not be the best for your body.

I hate that for you! I wish there was some way to guarantee that you could get breaks, but it just is not a reality in most ORs.

Good luck to you!


28 Posts

Thanks for the quick replies! I'm excited to see all areas of nursing specialties but unfortunately nursing school really limits that. We work on the floor a lot and will only see ER, OR, ICU, etc. once in all 3 yrs of clinical experience. So it's hard to decide where to chose where I go for 6 months my senior year since I have such limited knowledge of the areas I am interested in. This site has been great to learn about all areas, though. It has opened my eyes to different areas I didn't even know existed!


82 Posts

Specializes in LTAC, OR. Has 3 years experience.

It's kind of hard to say, because I have days where I get to sit a lot and days where I'm constantly running. I have kyphosis and quite a bit of muscular pain in my back and neck, so I can definitely identify with the need to sit and rest your back regularly. The nice thing about circulating (I think) is that you're never just standing in one place. You're moving around setting up a case and getting stuff for the field a lot, but when things slow down you can sit and chart for a few minutes. I also do pediatric surgery, which is a lot easier on your back than adult ortho, for example. But I won't lie: there are a lot of days I come home hurting everywhere despite my TED hose and MBTs. I do work 12-hour shifts, though. 8-hours shifts don't wear me out nearly as much.