What does it takes to be OR nurse


I am a new grad and I was able to get a job on a med/surg floor. I like it a lot, but feel that it is very hectic...(in canada there are no assistants so we do everything for the pts) Not that the U.S is any easier by any means..... Anyways i have always had a desire to work in the OR, but during school i stuck to all the floors for my clinical placements because i wanted to learn all the wound care, bedside care, etc. So i never had any placements in OR except for one day we all got to see one surgery....I loved the environment....

So i was planning on applying to an OR position while im currently working on med/surg... i was really excited about my decision. I told my parents and they said you have to have a certain personality for the OR and you have to be strong and very smart...... this just made me rethink my whole plan and now I'm very sad and don't know if i should apply to the OR....... is it very difficult? is it hard to adjust? are there strong personalities there?.......it was really my goal, but i feel like my parents are swaying me another way....


1 Post

Hi CanCan,

I think if you really want to work in the OR, you should go for it. I think working hard does not just happen in the OR, RNs in all specialties, and those on the floor also work as hard if not harder. The only thing that I can think that will prevent you from being a very good OR RN is if you are very sensitive to some yelling because sometimes, when surgeons are getting frustrated, they yell. And believe me, wherever you work, there will be surgeons that will yell. It's the way they release stress so don't take it personally. Organization, preparation, and good team work help lessen the yelling, so just try to be prepared, and like I said, don't take things personally. With regards to being smart and strong to be able to work in the OR, I think you are already strong and smart, you are an RN, right? Critical thinking is not exclusively just for OR RNs. Also, hospitals who hire RNs who have no experience in the OR have training programs, they don't just throw you in there and watch you flounder. If you really want to be an OR Nurse, you will learn how to be one, don't be scared. Find a facility that has a good training program and join in.

Good luck.


43 Posts



29 Posts

Yes surgeons will yell and they may blame on youbor accuse you of something even though its not your fault. Some nurses choose to stand up for themselves and others let it pass. Some surgeons may swear/cuss alot so its just how the environment is...it gets real and they dont hide any feelings. Everywhere you go not just the OR you deal with personalities


29 Posts

The OR is a very fun and learning experience for me depending on which surgeon and team you work with. The benefits outweigh the bad parts. I worked on the floor for 1 year and although I worked with a good group of nurses which I was very lucky to have but I didn't like taking care of 5 to 7 or 8 patients...it was stressful eventhough they were stable for the most part but I knew I was happier somewhere else. You should definitely shadow and when you do watch what the nurses do


43 Posts

how would i go about shadowing at a hospital i am not working at?

Editorial Team / Admin

Rose_Queen, BSN, MSN, RN

6 Articles; 11,343 Posts

Specializes in OR, Nursing Professional Development. Has 18 years experience.
how would i go about shadowing at a hospital i am not working at?

At both hospitals I interviewed at, shadowing days were considered part of the interview but could be scheduled for a later date.


391 Posts

Specializes in ICU, PACU, OR. Has 37 years experience.

It is a different skill set and has limited patient contact. But if it is something you want to do, consider it. It is physically demanding, you have to develop a thick skin, it is a strategic multi-tasking role and prioritization is key to being successful in planning for a case.

The nurse will get the scrutiny if anything goes wrong-you are the leader on paper, whether they give value to it or not, so be prepared for going in front of a risk management committee if an error occurs.


111 Posts

Specializes in OR.

Since I graduated nursing school, I networked very hard to get a position in the OR. Since I started this journey a few years ago, the OR was the only place I wanted to be.

Now, I am in full swing in the OR with preceptors and I can tell you, your parents are correct in regards to "strong personalities." However, not having ever worked on the floor, I don't know if the saying "Nurses eat their young" is any different in either area. The problem I am having is that I feel I have a good grasp of the basics and what I need to do to be successful, yet my preceptors are giving different information to my bosses (not all my preceptors, just one or two). It's not even the surgeons, who can definitely get surly with anyone in their line of fire...I can handle that and have never had anything negative directed towards me, yet. What I am having difficulty with is a preceptor telling me I'm doing a great job and then come to find out that same person/persons going to my boss to report back and say that I am not 'meshing' with what I need to do. It's beyond frustrating.

I'm a very positive person, I smile a lot, I say hello/good morning to everyone...and that annoys some people. All the preceptors do things differently in how they approach the patient or how they organize themselves and I have a different preceptor every day...so, if I pick up something from one person and take it to the next case/patient, then my next preceptor says "that's not how I do it..." and therefore I seem to them to be lost or not able to prioritize (of course, according to the way that particular preceptor I have that day does things).

I am tired of hearing "the OR has 'different/strong' personalities" because at this point I am taking that to mean that some of the people who work in the OR basically work there because they are not 'people persons' and so you get the phrase "strong personalities." It's total BS to me.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE my job/the work I do. I love the OR techs, who I have great respect for and who help me tremendously...the problem I have faced are other RN's who have bad attitudes. So, do not be afraid of the surgeons...as I am finding out that they are normally not the obstacle you have to overcome. I have tried rolling over and being gracious (that was my first approach, which was construed as 'weak' and 'lost')...I have tried being more assertive (which is construed as 'not listening' to my preceptors)...I have tried letting my preceptors lead me which turns into "she doesn't take initiative." Basically, I am feeling like I will never win this battle...it's wearing me down and making me rethink my options because most days I feel like I cannot win.

In my situation, there are some very wonderful RN's who are fabulous teachers and are willing to let me take the lead. The problem is only the negative preceptors are the ones piping up and giving feedback.

Again, I adore the work done in the OR...it is fascinating, fun, and exciting to be part of such a specialized area. It really upsets me to think that I am considering giving it up because the strong personalities that people like to mention about the OR equates to nothing more than some people just having bad attitudes who don't want to be teaching anyone, anything. Take this information for whatever its worth. If you love the OR as I do, then maybe you can overcome what I have not been able to up to this point...and that is the 'perception' of what you can/cannot handle from a select few who don't know how to teach and have no business being a preceptor in the first place. I'm not so sure this mentality is isolated, however, to the OR. So, good luck with whatever you decide to do! Regardless of 'some' people in any area you go, the OR is so extraordinary. It's not the work you will have trouble with, it's navigating the broad mood swings of a few people who will be in charge of your training. Good luck with whatever you decide! :)


14 Posts

Specializes in PerioOperative Nursing & Psych.

Boy, I can relate, it does take a special type of nurse to wok in the OR. The ability to not take things personally when te surgeon 'goes off'. I believe the hardest part of an OR is the beginning, when interacting with the different preceptors, because everyone does things their own way. What I can tell you is this, take what you learn from each person you precept with, do it their way while you're with them and when you are on your own, it becomes your practice and do it the way you see best as long as your priority is patient safety and following protocols. Adopt what you like and discard the rest, because when it comes down to it " its your practice and your license".

Ps: in the OR you are going to encounter mean old biddies, young miserable ones, and kind mature nurses and sweet young ones, basically all types, just like you would find elsewhere. And make it a practice, while orienting, ask the preceptor at the end of the shift, what areas do you think I need to work on? Basically give them a feeling of being in charge.