Specialties Operating Room


Hi, I am a nursing student and trying to figure out if the OR might be a good place for me to practice nursing. There have been several posts suggesting that OR nurses really enjoy their jobs (mostly) and some that wouldn't want to work in any other area. I wondered if someone might be able to tell me: what it is about this specialty that draws and retains the nursing staff? What is the BEST thing about OR nursing? Also, curiously, just standing in one position is hard on my feet and painful. I assume it probably is for most people, initially. Is this something you develop a tolerance for, do you have any suggestions that may help, any better types of shoes, or is this maybe just not a good area for me? Any input would be appreciated! Thanks for your time!


1,260 Posts

Specializes in O.R., ED, M/S.

I am going to have to think about this before giving you a good answer. I have been doing this for 27 years and yes, I wouldn't do anything else. Time to go, but will get back to you hopefully tomorrow. Mike

well i just graduated 2 years ago from nursing school myself and went straight to the OR from school.

so i will tell you this. i am now looking to get some experience else where. i enjoyed my OR time.. but (and i don't want to offend anyone) just coming from nursing school i feel like i am loosing some of my nusring knowledge that you may get from working on a floor or icu . anyways to my point if you have a chance to get the experience in an OR do it. because it is something you can have. most of the time OR's are looking for someone with experience. but if you do not want to be stuck there make sure you try other nursing after about two years. i have talked to alot of nurses i work with and they have said after 20years in the OR they don't feel like they would be comfortable going to work any where else but that OR.

so i dont' know if that helps


119 Posts

G'day All,

I'm going straight back to the OR out of Uni, and have received a lot of advice against it. I've been an EN fro years, done my time on the wards, and love theatres. Theatres is an area that people either love or hate, there seems to be little in between. I'm biased, I love them, but suggest that if you have no experience on the wards, do a newgrad programme or equivalent for at least a year, and then try theatres. You'll either love it or hate it... and the only way to find out is go there for a few months. Some of our newgrads do a placement in theatres towards the end of the year, and have a chance to test the water without getting burnt...

Amike, Jason

orrnlori, RN

549 Posts

What do I love about it?

I have only one patient and they are asleep. No families hovering around and making the job difficult. Everyone is focused on one job and one job only. No conflicting orders from different services, you are in the OR with the surgery service. Doctors treat you as part of a team, you don't get that on the floor. You develop close ties with the doctors, if you're good in the OR, you will be requested and respected, unlike the floor. If you like technology, it's here in the OR, if you aren't the touchy-feely type this is a great place to be. The hours are better, the days have an end (most of the time). You are focused, rather than scattered. You have a beginning, a middle and an end to a job.

I don't just stand all day, whether I'm circulating or scrubbed, sometimes you get to sit for longer periods of time, unlike the floor, where I never got to sit. At our hospital, you get a break and a lunch. Not on the floor where I worked 13 hours without a potty break.

You do lose nursing skills like starting IV's. We joke all the time we aren't real nurses anymore. I can live without starting IV's. I am highly skilled. ICU nurses no longer talk down to me, even the PedsICU nurses no longer talk down to me (and that's saying something). Most nurses don't eat their young in the OR, at least not in my experience.

If you have the opportunity to work at a university hospital you get to train the residents, they become your babies and they love you and respect you for keeping their butts out of trouble.

If I wasn't in the OR I wouldn't be a nurse. Would I rather be home watching movies all day? Yes. But if I'm gonna be a nurse it will be in the OR, not a unit or floor.

I'm finishing a BS and going to get a master's not in nursing, looking a public health, healthcare administration, business. Someday I want to wear real clothes again.:D

Just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to read my post and answer my questions. I really appreciate your time, effort, and thoughtfulness. Have a great day! :)

I had years of general nursing experience before I became an OR nurse. As a result of that I have the "whole picture" and can work all areas. I would recommend a new grad to do this......See what ya think......


34 Posts


orrnlori, I think you just described my dream job ! Thank you for you post. :blushkiss


189 Posts


orrnlori, I think you just described my dream job ! Thank you for you post. :blushkiss

Seriously!! That sounds like a freakin blast! I am unable to understand how the nurses enjoy working in Med/Surg or LTC(etc) running around like a chicken with their head cut off. :rotfl:


439 Posts

Specializes in Community, Renal, OR.

I enjoyed my 15 years in the OR, I then moved to nephrology (acute dialysis and nephrology ward) for 5 years, and now I am in an acute medical unit. Where I am actually putting into practice my combined years of knowledge. One of the thoracic surgeons walked onto my ward the other day whom I used to work with. He looked at me, blinked, looked again and said "what are you doing here, why haven't I seen you in the OR" and I have had the same experience with nephrologists that I have worked with when on the nephrology ward. I feel like many of the skills I have aquired over my time in different areas are being utilised in this acute area. I get to build a relationships with my patients' and their families and I get to see them go home (occasionally wrapped in plastic, but that happens everywhere).

I guess what I am saying is that as you change and mature as an individual you may decide that what you want in your nursing career changes. For me, I missed the patient contact.

Joanne :)

orrnlori, RN

549 Posts

Every time I have a bad day (cases get shuffled, can't find all the instruments or materials I need, get paired with a lazy surgical tech, get stuck working in ENT, or some such other disconcerting minor problem) I think about maybe looking elsewhere, then I snap out of it and realize my job is the best kept secret in nursing.

I truly truly respect those med/surg nurses and long term care nurses. They do a hard, selfless, wonderful job. I think they are great and I applaud them to the sky. I found I wasn't that kind of person, so therefore I wasn't that kind of nurse. This is my failure probably. I'm not saying that OR nurses don't work hard, we just don't do the same kind of hands on type of work. We don't have the patient interaction that so many nurses want and need to feel fulfilled.

The patient care is really very narrow and focused in a different way. The patient is still our priority but it is different, we advocate for a helpless unconscious person laying there totally exposed to a surgical mindset that is procedure based rather than person based. It has it's challenges, like stopping a surgeon from doing something not on the permit (try telling this god he can't do something, it's stressful but I've never lost the argument). We positon the patient, pad them up, we make certain sterility is maintained to the highest level, we watch monitors, we listen to the minutia of all conversations, we keep in touch with family during surgery, we hold the patient's hand while they go to sleep, we hold their hand while they wake up, we relay the facts and our feelings to the pacu nurses so they have the whole picture before they get the patient. It's just very different from working in the unit.

I am one of the few the hold you don't have to work in other areas before coming to the OR. While it's good background, I don't think it's necessary to be a good OR nurse. But that's just my opinion. I only worked 7 months in trauma before coming to the OR. I'll never work the floor or unit again. I know I would be miserable doing it and therefore it would not be good for my patients.


119 Posts

Theatre nursing is something you either love or hate. whatever your experience, if you love it, you should be there, for it is there that you will achieve your peak performance.

Ornlorri, your last post was beautiful. Thanks for sharing it with us.

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