RN student with questions about OR specialty

Specialties Operating Room


I am a RN student and I am pretty sure that I want to go into OR after I graduate and after some experience. My questions are: what is the difference between an OR nurse and a scrub nurse? Which have more or better job opportunities (OR or scrub)? How much experience after graduation would you reccommend for a new grad before they go into OR or scrub? Thanks!

I 've worked in OR since graduate. therefore I have not much experience in other specialties.But I 've learnt many pre and post operative care for surgeries of different units. such as orthopedic and eye. however I really want to gain some more experience from those other specialties. that would be good if there 's any exchange programs among departments.

In the OR there are circulators, scrubs, and sometimes assistants. Most of the time the circulator is an RN, the scrub is a certified surgical (or scrub) technician, and the assistant is a CST plus a certified first assistant. However, RN's often scrub also. The scrub's duty is to pass instruments, cut suture, suture, assist the surgeon, retract, etc. directly involved with the sterile surgical field. The circulator's duty is to be responsible for positioning of the patient, monitoring input/output, thermodynamics, hemodynamics, charting, and coordinating the perioperative experience for the patient and surgeon (getting things for the sterile field such as suture, medication, and instruments after the surgery is underway and making sure all necessary equipment is in the room and functioning properly). This sometimes requires the knowledge attained by RN's and in most hospitals must be an RN. The RN is responsible for monitoring medications used on the field and is responsible for the scrub's actions. The RN is also responsible for making sure the instrument/sponge count is correct. RN's who are working as scrubs (when we don't have enough scrubs primarily) are still responsible for medications given/injected on the field and other actions involving nursing judgement.

If an RN can scrub she has the best job opportunities because she can double when an OR is short on scrub staff. A scrub cannot double as a circulator because it requires a nursing license in most OR depts.

I would recommend at least a year on a floor, maybe two...and ICU or surgical ICU would be tremendously helpful before entering an OR job. A thick skin against verbally hostile surgeons is helpful too. It's almost never personal but happens often. 6 months minimum orientation in the OR before you're independent would be adviseable with further mentoring for at least a year.

Hope this helps.

I definately have to agree with the previous advice: work one or two years on the floors. I hated med/surg in school and never really loved it out of school, but the knowledge I gained I have found useful everywhere.

I my hospital we have very few scrub techs so all RN's must scrub and circulate which makes it more interesting. Our surgeons are polite and courteous. The rapport amongst the staff is excellent. But I have worked in an OR where the surgeons were rude and condescending; they would have temper tantrums and cuss everyone out. This caused everyone else to be rude to one another. I cried on many occasions. It really is up to the nurse managers to set the tone in the OR. When doctors are unnecessarily rude they should get reported and a talking to by the administration. Be sure when you interview to ask if nursing admin stands behind the nurses and doesn't just cater to the docs. Interview some of the staff nurses. They'll tell you!

well i have been a traveling nurse for the last 8 yrs and i have always loved my job in the opearting room. of course you run in to some jerks that scream and yell but don't take it personally. they just want a reaction and if you cry they got it. I have never seen a scrub person suture. most states have laws that forbid that. usually the only other person at that table that can suture besides a doc is a P.A or S.A. i agree that the more experience you get on the floor the better you will understand and realize what a wonderful job you have in the operating room. first you are not working with all women cause there are as many guys as girls. and usually everyone works to help eachother. when i first started in the or i worked at a small community hospital. we did about everything but because it was a smaller place when i started traveling i was scared to death that i had not learned enough BUT I was wrong. all OR are generally the same just different layouts. some parts of the country have different names for the same thing but you learn. traveling not only allows me to enjoy myjob but also i can usually pick where i want to work...a working vacation i call it no overtime or call monday thur fri usually day shift. learn to do both scrub and cir. work on another floor at least a yr or so, then come to the OR a different breed of nurses work in the OR. Hope you find your place and you fit in. enjoy nursing!!

I'm currently an o.r. nurse with some advice to new o.r. nurses. You must understand that the whole key to o.r. nursing deals with tasks. You will be completing tasks throughout your day. It will feel as though you are making constant deadlines. I scrub and circulate for a busy 25 sutie O.R., and sometimes scrubbing is a relief from circulating. My organizational skills are now excellent, and I also learned how to be thick skinned when dealing with unruly doctors. I do admit though, I used to be more passive, but now I lean toward the agressive side. Good? I don't know for sure. I also suggest doing a year of med/surg before going into the O.R., and know that the only pt contact you will have will be pre-op. I feel that O.R. nurses do not get the respect they deserve, nor the pay. Just realize that the job is not glamorous and is in fact very demanding and tiring. I've been a nurse for 6 yrs, 3yrs spent in the o.r, and currently I am considering a different area of nursing.

Another interesting aspect of OR nursing is the fact that you learn new things all the time. Also after you have had at least 2 years experience scrubbing and circulating and gotten your CNOR certification you can enroll in an RNFA (first assisting) course. There you will learn so much more about anatomy, physiology and surgery itself. You will learn to suture, provide exposure, provide hemostasis etc. It is a very interesting field and is growing everyday. It is very exciting.

I was accepted in an intern, I was not successful in finishing coz I was bugged down by shift disorder.

I thought of resurecting that dream by getting in the surgical tech program so I would at least have a head start, does this make sense, NEW RN.Most jobs needs 1 year or 2 year circulator, do i have a chance to get in if I have this cert or is it a very bad idea, need inputs suggestions. I am wanting to give it a second shot before i close the door

email me [email protected] need advice what hospital is this , where

please email me and I need some input should i go to surgical tech class to give me an edge when I apply new Rn

Specializes in Peri-op/Sub-Acute ANP.


This thread is over 12 years old, so I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for a response from these participants.

FYI, the surg tech progam is not a single course that you can just take. It is an 8 month to 2 years (depending on school) professional program run by many community colleges. If you are interested in completing the course you can check with your local colleges to see if they have a program.

Only you can decide if it is worth the expense of completing an additional professional educational program. If you had an internship and didn't complete it you have to ask yourself why it went wrong, and whether things have changed now so that you won't fail again.

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