A scrub nurse refers to the RN in the operating room who "scrubs
in" for a procedure. "Scrubbing in" means that a staff member becomes part of the sterile field team during operative procedures. These team members can include surgical technologist, MD's, resident MD's, RN's, PA's, NPSA's, medical students, and other medical profession students.
There are many roles for the "scrub nurse". For starters, they set up the sterile field and the instruments required for the procedure. They also help the "circulating nurse" get the operating room ready prior to the patient coming to the room for their surgery. During the surgery they pass instrument to the surgeon or the resident physician. They also can assist the surgeon during procedures as a first assistant or a "second scrub". "Second scrub" refers to a person who assists with the procedure by holding a retractor, camera, or an extremity. A second scrub would be considered the third team member that has an active role in the operative procedure.
During your different rotations in your nursing program, chances are good you will go through a rotation in the operating room. Some programs actually are begining to have a more indepth operating room experience and training. The operating room is like no other nursing area. You will learn this.
Upon graduation, if you choose to do so, you can join the operating room staff. The operating room is an option just as floor nursing, ICU, OB, etc is. Once you join the OR team you might be asked to learn to scrub for procedures. This, of course, will depend on the hospital itself. Some hospitals don't allow, want, or need the RN to be in the scrub role. This would be because there are surgical technologists that are specifically trained for this role and economically more efficient for some hospital budgets. Some hospitals do, however, want their RN's to be able to scrub and circulate. This also can help with efficiency in the operating room. It really is different everywhere. The primary role for the RN in the operating room suite is to circulate procedures. This is the most common practice, but as stated before, the RN can learn to scrub procedures.
If you want to read more about the "scrubbing" role I would visit the Association of Surgical Technologist website.
Any of your questions you might have regarding the "scrub" role can be answered there also.
Good luck in your venture! There is no place like the OR!