How to Become an Operating Room Nursing


Operating room nurses, also known as perioperative nurses, are registered nurses (R.N.) who work in hospital, physician office, clinics, surgical or ambulatory operating rooms. As an operating room nurse you will work closely with an operating room (OR) team. Your primary duties will be to provide emotional support to the patients and their families, prepare the OR for surgery and assist the physician with treatment plans, procedures and surgeries.

You will also be in charge of sterilizing operating instruments, providing emergency aid, suturing wounds, monitoring vital signs and blood flow and/or administering medications. If you are trying to decide whether or not you would like to become an operating room nurse, you have come to the right place. This article will provide you with all of the information you will need to determine if this is the right career for you.

Educational Requirements

To work as an operating room nurse, you will need to obtain an associate’s degree in nursing. To seek advancement as an operating room nurse, you will need to successfully complete an undergraduate nursing program. Although a bachelor’s degree is not required to practice as an operating room nurse, many employers prefer that their nurses have a 4-year college nursing degree. Your nursing program (associates and/or bachelors) will include both classroom instruction and a clinical internship.

Licensure & Experience

Once you have successfully completed your program, you will be eligible to sit for the licensing exam. The licensure exam is usually administered by the National Council of Licensing Examination Board. Once you have passed the licensure exam, you will be recognized as a registered nurse or R.N. You will then be legally able to seek employment as an operating room nurse in the United States.

In some cases, operating room nurses need to be able to accurately distinguish between life and death situations so that they can make quick decisions on the appropriate care for the patient. It is important to note that some hospitals, clinics and surgical units prefer to hire nurses that have preoperative experience. Most employers, at the very least, expect their operating room nurses to have general nursing experience before assisting in the in the operating room.

Requirements to practice as an operating room nurse:

In order to practice as an operating room nurse, you must have an up-to-date, active registered nurse (R.N.) license. In addition, you must have at least two years of experience as a registered nurse in a medical-surgical setting. Furthermore, you must have at least 2,000 hours of clinical and/or management practice, within the last three years in a hospital, clinic and/or surgical unit.

Advancing your career:

The most effective way to advance your operating room nursing career is to obtain certification. The first thing you will need to do, to advance your career, is to gain experience as a registered nurse (R.N.) in an operating room setting. Once you have gained at least two years of operating room experience, you may be eligible to sit for the certification exam. This exam will test your nursing knowledge and expertise. The certification exam is typically administered by the Competency and Credentialing Institute.

Job Duties

As an operating room nurse, you main job duties will be to prepare the operating room for surgery by making sure the operating room is sterile and equipped with the necessary equipment and instruments needed for the procedure or surgery. You are also responsible for regulating blood flow, providing wound care (suturing incisions) and handling a variety of surgical instruments.

You will spend the majority of your day in sterile hospital operating rooms so there is a risk, albeit a slight one, of exposure to blood, organs, tissue, toxins, diseases and viruses. Moreover, you will be required to stand for the majority, if not all, of your shift.  Furthermore, your work schedule may vary (evenings, overnight, holidays, weekends, irregular hours, overtime and/or emergencies).


According to (2013), you can earn approximately $75,000 a year, on average, as an operating room nurse. If you fall in the lower 10% you can expect to earn approximately 46,000 per year and if you fall in the upper 10%, you can expect to earn approximately 88,000 or more per year (, 2013). Most operating room nurses fall in the middle and make approximately $63,000 per year.

Career Outlook

The career outlook for operating room nurses appears favorable. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2013), employment opportunities for registered nurses (including operating room nurses) are expected to increase 22% by 2018. You will be able to find the most job opportunities in hospitals. In fact, in 2008, approximately 60% of experienced registered nurses worked in hospitals and in 2011, many experienced operating room nurses reported their annual income as approximately $70,000 (, 2013)

Related Reading

References and Further Reading

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