9 Tips for New Operating Room Nurses

Updated | Published
by Rose_Queen Rose_Queen, BSN, MSN, RN (Admin)

Specializes in OR, education. Has 17 years experience.

Transitioning into the role of an Operating Room (OR) nurse, whether a new grad or an experienced nurse changing specialties, can be overwhelming. Sometimes, those nurses wonder if they made the right decision in accepting the job. Here are a few tips that can help make that transition smoother.

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Skip219

Skip219, BSN, RN

Specializes in ICU, SICU, Burns, ED, Cath lab, and EMS. Has 25 years experience. 139 Posts

I appreciate how you felt during your transition. Switched to cath lab about 15 yrs ago. Recently moved to the coast from the Midwest. Changing to chaotic cath lab with younger personnel. I knew the job but it was different team feeling. I was told that I was slow and not catching on. They transferred me to the separate EP lab. It's possible to learn new things in a hostile environment. You have lot of knowledge to offer. Ask questions. I did 12 yrs of ICU, Burns, and ED nursing b4. Procedural nursing is very different but focus on your pt. there are times when I don't exactly know what going on, but focus on how your patient is tolerating or not.

best wishes,

Skip

BexnRN

BexnRN

25 Posts

I had the same experience as you coming into an IR position. My orientation was inadequate and there are lots of know-it-alls. We have just hired a nursing supervisor. Previously the department was run by techs. We're totally separate from cath/EP lab, so I can't imagine all you've had to learn. It took me 18 months to feel sure of myself. Hang in there and stick up for yourself. It's a neat area of nursing and there's lots to learn, but don't sacrifice your health or happiness. There's lots of other neat areas of nursing to investigate!!

Skip219

Skip219, BSN, RN

Specializes in ICU, SICU, Burns, ED, Cath lab, and EMS. Has 25 years experience. 139 Posts

I really like the team and the patients. It's a nice break from doing Caths and pacers all day. I enjoy working with radiologists better because most are less high strung. I've experienced many areas of nursing..procedural is far the best fit for me.

Skip

WillEdwards

WillEdwards

Specializes in Critical Care, Emergency Care, Psych. Has 7 years experience. 1 Post

This was an AWESOME article and thank you for taking the time to write it! I am a strong critical care nurse working in CVICU (or some know it as CTICU), trauma ICU, MICU, and Neuro ICU as well as working in the ER in my 7 years of nursing. I am highly considering taking a CTOR position that is being offered and I am nervous yet excited for the challenge. Eventually I want to go into anesthesia and I think working in the OR would be a good asset to learn the surgeries , workflow, and the overall happenings in the OR. Thank you for your post and many blessings to you!! It gave GREAT advice and a lot of things to consider! I think I am going to go for it!!

BarbaraNM

BarbaraNM, ASN, RN

Has 7 years experience. 504 Posts

Spiker said:
Kimlilly07, you stated: It's tough learning every position, machine and utensil however, if you stay in one OR you will remember the surgeon's preferences so well you will come to a point that you have memorized the pick ticket. The pick ticket/preference card is your key to a successful surgery (and running shoes)!!!

I just wanted to comment on your suggestion that says the new OR Nurse should stay in one OR. The theory being that by working with the same surgeons, & always/often doing the same types of surgery, you only have to learn those particular surgeons & what they like & do. I'm not sure where you work, but in both medical centers I've worked in, we had to take call, even with routine night shift staffing; & we had to take weekend call even with a dedicated weekend staff. Emergencies happen, often while the regular staff is already operating. With that in mind, the potential exists that you may be required to do many different types of surgery, with many different types of surgeons!!! Therefore I would discourage anyone from simply staying in one room because it's easier to learn a few procedures done by the same surgeons repeatedly. If you'll be taking call, you need to be familiar with many, many types of surgeries, services, & surgeons, as well as a lot of instruments & equipment (or as you said above, many machines & utensils). I've been an OR Nurse for 33 years. I specialize in Neurosurgery, however, having worked in an Orthopedic surgery center for 7 years, I also do a day or two in Ortho. I've done practically everything except open heart. I can circulate & scrub just about anything, & was evening shift charge nurse in a busy medical center for 10 years, so dealing with emergencies helped me hone my organizational skills, plus learn to prioritize, gather any instruments & equipment which will be used as all as those that may potentially be used. I always keep a cart outside of the sterile core door into my OR with all of the possible instrument sets/equipment "just in case...." So don't try to limit yourself just because it's less to learn; instead, tell your charge nurse (or OR Nurse educator who may be orienting you) that you need to get into as many types of cases as you can, in order to be able to perform your job in the highest standard. You'll feel more confident & in control when on call or working an "off" shift. Plus, in the long haul, if you relocate & need to apply for a new job, having a diverse knowledge of all types of procedures & keeping up with new equipment will make you more marketable (especially having an edge over less experience nurses). Good luck to you!!!

Great advice!! I am a new RN, working in my first Nursing job and am in a 6 month Periop program. My first rotation is as a Scrub, then I will be trained in Circulating. I have been in many different types of cases, and it is truly overwhelming! SOOOOO much to learn! But I am loving it!! I want to be able to do any and every type of case, but I admit, being in a room that is 'familiar' is somewhat reassuring at this early stage!! I will be placed into a Circulating role once I am sent to one of the 3 facilities that is a part of this hospital. Being able to do any case, either role, will make me a better OR Nurse and more marketable, if I ever decide to travel.

Rose Queen, Spiker, and anyone else that contributes to these pages... thank you for the input and advice. It is excellent information!!

OR Supernurse

OR Supernurse

5 Posts

I am so excited to see this post and to also learn that you started in the OR as a new grad. I may have the opportunity to start a new grad OR Training position. The position will start in a couple of months and being the nerd that I am....I would like to get a head start on studying. What books should I purchase? Apps? Will I need brain sheets? How can I stand out and be better prepared than my peers? This is going to be my career, I want to be the best so I don't care how much the materials cost because my main focus is to become a good nurse. I was told that the OR training program retention rate is 50% Nationally! What can I do to ensure that I succeed? I hope that one day I'll be the nurse that new grads look to for advice. Thank you!!!

BarbaraNM

BarbaraNM, ASN, RN

Has 7 years experience. 504 Posts

OR Supernurse said:
I am so excited to see this post and to also learn that you started in the OR as a new grad. I may have the opportunity to start a new grad OR Training position. The position will start in a couple of months and being the nerd that I am....I would like to get a head start on studying. What books should I purchase? Apps? Will I need brain sheets? How can I stand out and be better prepared than my peers? This is going to be my career, I want to be the best so I don't care how much the materials cost because my main focus is to become a good nurse. I was told that the OR training program retention rate is 50% Nationally! What can I do to ensure that I succeed? I hope that one day I'll be the nurse that new grads look to for advice. Thank you!!!

Good luck getting into the training program!! Hope you love it as much as I do. I just started Circulating this week and it is a new challenge, but everything is starting to come together. It is fun, challenging, exciting, and always interesting.

You can't go wrong buying Alexander's 'Care of the Patient in Surgery... 15th edition is the latest. It may also be available to borrow from your local library (Mine got it from a Med School in AZ) Of course, after starting the program and buying the book 2 weeks prior, it was given out to the others and I had spent $100. Oh well...

Also, if you are still a student, AORN offers a special deal for a 1-year membership. Pricey otherwise. Luckily, that is another's benefit of my program. The membership also includes a subscription to AORN Journal. Great publication.

After completing my required 2 years after training, I may look into traveling. Seems like it could be very lucrative.

Wishing you you the best.... and I say GO FOR IT!!

Barbara

Rose_Queen, BSN, MSN, RN

Specializes in OR, education. Has 17 years experience. 5 Articles; 10,985 Posts

Bumping this up as it seems we've gotten an influx of those interested in, interviewing for, or starting an OR position.

NMDHB

NMDHB

1 Post

Thank you so much for these tips. They are just what I needed to hear!

Rose_Queen, BSN, MSN, RN

Specializes in OR, education. Has 17 years experience. 5 Articles; 10,985 Posts

Rose_Queen said:
Bumping this up as it seems we've gotten an influx of those interested in, interviewing for, or starting an OR position.

Looks like it's that time of year again! Welcome to those new OR nurses I've seen posting in other threads! For those of you new to the OR as well as those of you who have already started and are struggling, I hope you find this helpful.

iverina

iverina

29 Posts

Great articl!!!

Thanks for sharing

Crunchtime

Crunchtime

36 Posts

Great article. Very useful for a new grad OR RN