Job Description for an Operating Room RN

Operating room nurses work in tandem with the entire surgical team.

Operating room nurses work in tandem with the entire surgical team.

The operating room is no place for prima donnas. Every procedure, regardless of how simple or how complex, involves a team effort that includes the surgeon, surgical techs, anesthesiologists, operating room nurses and others. Your career as an operating room nurse, more accurately referred to as a perioperative nurse, will put all of your registered nurse training to the test.


Only registered nurses qualify to work as perioperative nurses, commonly referred to as operating room nurses. You can earn your RN by graduating from an accredited nursing program at a two-year community college, a four-year college or university or a three-year diploma program from a teaching hospital, passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registerd Nurses, and meeting any other state-specific requirements in the state where you wish to practice.


Once you've earned your RN, you are qualified to work in an operating room environment in hospital surgical departments, ambulatory surgery clinics and doctors' offices. Some employers might require you to gain general care experience as a staff nurse for a period of time, before allowing you to move into a more specialized field such as the operating room. Others might need you to work in the operating room immediately after you earn your RN.

Job Function

Your career as an operating room nurse is multifaceted. You'll provide care to your patients before, during and after the surgical procedure. You'll act as a liaison between the surgical team and the patient's family. You might work as a scrub nurse, assisting the surgeon by passing the appropriate instruments and surgical supplies during the procedure. You might work as a circulating nurse to ensure the entire operating room is operating in a safe and efficient manner.


Once you gain considerable experience working in an operating room environment, you might pursue professional credentials as a certified operating room nurse. The Competency and Credentialing Institute offers the CNOR credential to candidates who work in an operating room environment, have at least two years experience in perioperative nursing and pass the 200-question CNOR examination. Certification is not required to work as an operating room nurse, but it demonstrates proficiency in core competencies of the specialty. Some employers prefer to hire credentialed candidates, and certification might lead to higher wages.

Employment Outlook

Registered nursing is the largest of the health care industry occupations, with more than more than 2.7 million jobs available as of May 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It's also one of the fastest growing occupations, with a projected 26 percent increase between 2010 and 2020. The advanced training and experience you gain as an operating room nurse can help open the door to advancement in a number of different directions, such as an advanced practice nurse anesthetist, clinical nurse educator or certified RN first assistant.

2016 Salary Information for Registered Nurses

Registered nurses earned a median annual salary of $68,450 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, registered nurses earned a 25th percentile salary of $56,190, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $83,770, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 2,955,200 people were employed in the U.S. as registered nurses.

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About the Author

Mike Parker is a full-time writer, publisher and independent businessman. His background includes a career as an investments broker with such NYSE member firms as Edward Jones & Company, AG Edwards & Sons and Dean Witter. He helped launch DiscoverCard as one of the company's first merchant sales reps.

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