What is a Perioperative Nurse?

A perioperative nurse is a registered nurse specializing in helping patients during surgical or invasive procedures.

These healthcare professionals accompany patients and specialists in the perioperative phase of their surgical operation.

They also provide treatment and support through the patient’s inter-operative and postoperative phases.

People sometimes use the terms perioperative nurse and operating room nurse perioperative nurses synonymously.

However, perioperative nurses have unique skills and treatment processes to care for their patients.

Responsibilities and Duties

Perioperative nurses utilize the nursing process to assess, diagnose, plan, implement and evaluate patient care.

As a result, these nurses ensure patients meet the desired outcomes before, during, and after surgical procedures.

In addition, perioperative nurses may play several support roles.

It includes being a circulator nurse, scrub nurse, and an RN first assistant.

Each role enables them to assist physicians and patients before, during, and after a surgical operation.

It also ensures patients receive safe and healthy pre and post-surgical care.


The circulator is in charge of overlooking, managing, and communicating the surgical team’s needs.

As a result, they are responsible for the safety and health of the operating room and those involved in the patient’s care.

They also communicate with caregivers and family members to ensure they understand the procedures and care process.

It ensures that the patient, family members, and surgical team are confident, knowledgeable, and competent.

Scrub Nurse

The scrub nurse handles sterilized tools, sponges, and other surgical instruments.

They ensure the physician/surgeon has the tools to perform the surgical procedure adequately.

Scrub nurses are ultimately accountable for managing and passing sterilized tools to the surgeon.

As a result, they must adequately scrub and sterilize their hands and tools before the operation.

It’s necessary to prevent the spread of germs, viruses, and bacteria that could affect the patient’s health.

RN First Assistant

The RN First Assistant (RNFA) acts as the surgeon’s/physician’s assistant during and after the procedure.

These specialists review the patient’s condition and medical background before the procedure.

They also aid team members in the preparation of the operation.

During preparation, RN first assistants ready, position, and drape the patient for surgery.

In addition, they assist the surgeon with controlling bleeding, implant devices, medical tools, suturing, and cleaning up.

After the operation, RN first assistants ensure everything is accounted for, sterilized, and cleaned.

Necessary Skills

Perioperative nurses need to display various skills beyond having a knowledgeable medical background.

For instance, they must be collaborative, organized, great at time management, and highly analytical.

They must also be excellent communicators and understand when to take a leadership position or play a supporting role.

The following section covers the skills needed to operate successfully as a perioperative nurse.

Leadership and Communication

Perioperative nurses play vital roles before, during, and after surgical or invasive procedures.

As a result, they must understand how to communicate effectively with their team and lead in their area of expertise.

For instance, the circulator nurse oversees the team’s requirements and must be ready to accommodate their needs.

Taking ownership of their position and making quick, analytical decisions is vital for the procedure’s success.

Coordination and Delegation

Each member of the surgical team has specific duties they must accomplish.

Poor management of resources and team members increases the risk of medical issues and complications.

Therefore, it’s essential to understand how to coordinate and delegate tasks effectively.

Patients require timely care to ensure their health and safety, so having a well-functioning and coordinated team is necessary.

Time Management and Organization

Time management and organizational skills are necessary for timely care in healthcare settings.

Medical professionals often work with numerous patients and respond to unforeseen incidents.

Accordingly, perioperative nurses must have excellent organization and timeliness to ensure patients receive adequate care.

Administering medications, and IVs, performing life-saving treatments, and managing multiple patients require excellent time management and organization.

Even the most minor healthcare mistakes can have significant consequences.

Analytical and Critical Thinking Skills

Perioperative nurses regularly experience unpredictable emergencies and medical situations.

As a result, they must be highly analytical and accountable to prepare the patient and medical team adequately.

Perioperative frequently keep track of the team’s resources to ensure they’re sufficiently prepared for procedures.

They’ll monitor medical tools, safety equipment, blood supplies, and necessary gear that’s beneficial to the team.

They’ll also frequently assess the patient’s condition and medical team needs to ensure optimal healthcare outcomes.

Work Environment

Perioperative nurses operate in various healthcare settings.

It includes operating rooms, emergency facilities, healthcare clinics, physician offices, and surgical departments.

Each institution has specific healthcare demands that require the assistance and expertise of perioperative nurses.

Places Perioperative Nurses Work

  • Hospitals
  • Operating rooms
  • Doctors offices
  • Surgical departments
  • Emergency facilities
  • Outpatient centers

Perioperative nurses work with a medical team to ensure patients receive adequate care.

The medical team comprises specialists who play distinct roles in patient preparation, medical care, and support.

It includes surgeons, anesthesiologists, PICU nurses, ICU nurses, and other healthcare specialists.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Perioperative nurses pursuing advanced careers may return to school to earn an MSN or DNP degree.

These advanced degrees provide opportunities for management, director, and educational healthcare careers.

It also allows these specialists to become advanced practice registered nurses.

Perioperative nurses pursuing educator roles create academic curricula and teach students to help them become nurses.

They also collaborate with unit management, physicians, and medical staff providing educational resources and training.

It gives healthcare specialists the knowledge and skill competencies necessary to perform their duties effectively.

Perioperative nurses who pursue management roles are accountable for managing hospital staff.

For instance, they oversee staff schedules, sustain department budgets and cooperate with teams on departmental issues.

The director supervises the safety, effectiveness, and patient care of the department/facility.

As a result, they’re responsible for assessing the unit’s needs and performance to ensure they receive adequate support.

If needed, the director makes meaningful changes to strengthen the department’s safety, performance, and procedures.

How To Become A Perioperative Nurse

Students interested in becoming perioperative nurses must first acquire their ADN or BSN degrees.

The ADN nursing program requires two years to complete, and the BSN program requires four years for full-time students.

Before participating in the program, students must obtain their diploma or GED to qualify for college.

They must also complete the necessary nursing school prerequisites to gain acceptance into the program.

After completing the two-year or four-year program, students must pass the state NCLEX-RN exam to obtain licensure.

The next step is to gain as much experience as possible while working as a registered nurse.

You’ll want to train and volunteer in the surgical operating department during this time.

You’ll also want to take continuing education and certification courses related to perioperative nursing you can.

Once you’ve acquired enough training, take the Certified Nurse Operating Room Exam (CNOR).

It enables you to obtain your perioperative nurse certification.

There are numerous requirements to pursue perioperative nurse certifications.

It includes a minimum of 2 years of registered nursing experience with 2,400 hours of surgical practice.

In addition, nurses must have an unrestricted license and hold a position in surgical nursing before taking the exam.

You may want to consult existing perioperative nurses to determine the program’s training and educational requirements.

You can also consult the head nurse and the human resources department for more details.

For additional information on taking and passing the perioperative exam, check out:

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