What is Operating Room / Perioperative Nursing? Salary?

  1. Perioperative nurses are nurses who assist with patient care in the preoperative, interoperative, and postoperative phases of surgery. Throughout the surgical process, they are patient advocates and are responsible for patient safety. They also educate and teach patients and their families.

    What is Operating Room / Perioperative Nursing? Salary?

    Perioperative nurses are the nurses who are with the patient as they go through all levels of surgery. They are there to greet the anxious patient and their family upon arrival to the preoperative area. They remain with the patient throughout the surgical procedure, always keeping patient safety in the forefront. They are the nurses who will be with the patient in the postoperative area, carefully monitoring and caring for the patient's needs. Throughout the surgical process, perioperative nurses serve as liaisons between the OR and patients' families and friends to provide support and communication while ensuring the highest quality of patient care.

    Necessary Skills/Qualities

    Perioperative nurses need excellent interpersonal and communication skills to work with patients and other professionals in what can sometimes be an intense and emotional environment. Compassion and empathy are necessary to help comfort anxious and suffering patients. Energy, stamina, and emotional stability will help the nurse to thrive in an intense and face-paced operating room environment. Because their job requires strict adherence to safety and sanitary procedures, perioperative nurses should be excellent decision makers with a keen eye for detail.

    Work Environment

    Perioperative nurses work in hospital surgical departments, day-surgery units (ambulatory surgery), radiology departments, clinics, and physicians' offices. They work closely with the surgical patient, family members, and other health-care professionals to help plan, implement, and evaluate treatment.



    Nurses caring for patients before and after surgery are also know as perianesthesia nurses. The perioperative nurse in this phase of care:
    • Uses interviewing and assessment skills to identify possible or actual patient problems prior to surgery
    • Carefully reviews the patient's current and past health history, lab values, psychological status, and understanding of the procedure
    • Prepares the patient for surgery


    In the operating room, the perioperative nurse may serve as a:

    Circulating Nurse
    • Manages the overall patient care in the surgical suite and helps to maintain a safe, comfortable environment.
    • Ensures patient safety during the procedure
    • Coordinates with the surgeon, scrub nurse/tech, and anesthesia provider to provide quality care to the patient

    Scrub Nurse
    • Uses sterile technique while selecting and passing instruments and supplies used for the operation
    • Maintains patient safety

    Other responsibilities during the intra-operative period include:
    • Acts as a patient advocate at all times, especially while the patient is under anesthesia
    • Assists with completion of surgical "counts" to be sure that no foreign objects are left unaccounted for
    • Helps with repositioning of the patient
    • Provides warming blankets

    Post Operative

    Post-operative care is provided by the nurse in the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU). Post-op nurses should have extensive experience in intensive care nursing as they care for the life-sustaining needs of the patient. They also discuss with patients and families post operative care in the home.


    While a licensed practical nurse typically handles preoperative and postoperative care, most scrub nurses are registered nurses. While RNs with an associate's degree are qualified for this position, the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) highly recommends that these professionals hold a bachelor's degree (BSN).

    RNs often transition into the scrub nurse role after many years of acute care nursing experience. With additional education and experience, perioperative nurses can function as operating room directors, manage budgets, staffing and other business aspects of the OR. With further advanced education and training, perioperative nurses may choose to become nurse anesthetists or may even consider a career as a certified RN First Assistant. They may also pursue careers as clinical educators or researchers.


    The 2011 AORN survey reports an average income of $64,900 for perioperative staff nurses in small facilities, with 10 operating rooms or less, and $69,600 for nurses in facilities with more than 10 operating rooms.

    Staff nurses with the necessary combination of experience and personal skills can find advancement and improved pay. An RN First Assistant, who acts as lead nurse during surgery, can earn $73,200 per year in a small facility or $77,700 in a larger facility, according to the AORN survey. Nursing supervisors earn an average of $79,900 in small facilities and $84,900 in larger institutions. Directors and assistant directors of nursing earn an average of $95,200 in small institutions and $127,800 in large ones. Perioperative nurses serving as educational faculty in schools or teaching hospitals averaged $77,400 in small facilities, and $79,100 in larger ones.

    RN's Train For The Operating Room

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    Last edit by Joe V on Aug 8, '18
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