Perioperative nursing is a specialty of nursing that focuses on helping patients who are going through an operative procedure.
Perioperative nurses not only accompany the patients and health care specialists during the peri-operative phase of their surgical operation and treatment, but will continue to support them through their inter-operative and post-operative phases as well.
While perioperative nurses are sometimes refered to as operating room nurses (because they often work in the operating room) the term perioperative is used to give their field of expertise a more precise understanding and meaning.
Perioperative nurses may operate in a variety of settings such as operating rooms, clinics, physician offices and other surgical operating departments in the health care field and work with a number of health care specialists including anesthesiologist, physicians, nurse practitioners and surgeons.
Perioperative Roles and Responsibilities
Perioperative nurses generally play one of three support roles before, during and after a surgical operation, and use their expertise to assist the doctor with running and performing safe and healthy pre and post surgical operations.
The circulator is in charge of overlooking, managing and communicating the needs of the surgical team and is responsible for the overall safety and health of the operating room.
The scrub nurse is responsible for passing around sterilized tools, sponges and other surgical instruments the doctor may need in order to perform the surgical operation. Since scrub nurses are responsible for handling and passing around sterilized tools they are required to scrub and sterilize their hands before the operation in order to prevent passing around germs and other bacteria that could affect the patients health, hence the name “scrub nurse”.
RN First Assistant
The RN First Assistant (RNFA) acts as the doctors assistant during and after the operation. The RN First Assistant may assist the doctor in reviewing the patients condition and medical background before the operation, aid other nurses in the preparation of the operation, help in prepping, positioning and draping the patient and assist with a number of tasks during the operation such as helping with implant devices, operating drilling tools, assisting with the closure of skin and organ tissue and assisting with clean up after the operation to ensure that everything is accounted for, sterilized and cleaned.
Becoming a Perioperative Nurse
Nurses who are interesting in working as perioperative nurses must first acquire either their ASN (associates of science in nursing) or BSN (bachelors of science in nursing) degree and pass the national licensing exam for registered nurses.
After passing nursing school and obtaining their license they must then look for a job at a hospital or similar health care setting (preferably one that specializes in operative procedures).
The next step is to gain as much experience as possible while working as a registered nurse (see if the health care organization you work with allows you to train and/or volunteer in the surgical operating department) and take as many continuing education and certification courses related to perioperative nursing you can.
Once you’ve acquired enough training and education you will be able to take the Certified Nurse Operating Room Exam (CNOR) and become a perioperative nurse.
Some of the requirements you may need for taking the exam include obtaining a minimum of 2 years of experience as a registered nurse with 2,400 hours of surgical practice, an unrestricted nursing license and hold a current position in surgical nursing before taking the exam.
In order to find out what training and educational requirements you should focus on you may want to sit down and talk with several perioperative nurses, the head nurse and/or the human resources department.
For additional information on taking and passing the perioperative exam you may also want to check out:
- Institute for credentialing excellence
- American board of nursing specialities
Note: While it is possible to find entry-level positions as a registered nurse with an associate degree it can be difficult to find career advancement opportunities unless you hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing since most hospitals and health care facilities look for nurses with advanced education backgrounds, training and experience when hiring nurses for more specialized positions within the nursing profession.
The average salary of a perioperative nurse is determined by a number of factors such as what state that nurse works in, the overall level of education and training they’ve acquired, their role and position in perioperative nursing, and any financial agreements made between the nurse and the health care organization they work for.
Most perioperative nurses can expect to earn between $67,000 – 97,000 per year in the United States, with a percentage of perioperative nurses making in excess of $100,000 per year.
The overall job outlook for the nursing field is extremely high and continuing to grow and expand.
It is estimated that the nursing job market may grow by an estimated 26% between 2010 and 2020 (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics), and as many as 800,000 nursing jobs are expected to become available to those who either work as or are interested in becoming a nurse.
This means there will be huge increases in job opportunities, career advancement, pay and medical benefits for those who have a strong desire to work in the field of nursing.