10 Reasons to Be an Operating Room Nurse
OR Nurses Are Something Special
You always hear it takes something special to be an OR nurse. A certain temperament is required. But, what is that temperament? How do I know if I will fit in?
Operating room nurses have so many different duties. Ensuring the room is clean, opening the supplies and instruments, interviewing the patient, counting the instruments with a tech, and ensuring all needed equipment is present and working are just a few things the nurse needs to get done before the patient can enter the room.
There is a constant balancing act in the OR. You must perform duties in a timely manner, while upholding all rules of sterile technique. Turn-over times are judged by minutes and should not take longer than 15. (Turn-over is defined as the time between one patient leaving the operating room to the time that another patient enters it.)
Nurses must have the integrity to admit their mistakes. The integrity to admit when they are wrong. The integrity to stop everything in certain instances. The integrity to tell the team members, even when it means a delay in the room (which will end in a dressing down by the surgeon).
Operating room nurses are required to be flexible. When everything changes at the drop of a dime, OR nurses are expected to pick up the pieces and go on. So what if you just got everything ready to start a case. That case will be done by someone else. And now you only have 10 minutes until the patient needs to be taken to the room. OR nurses grumble under their breath, but then they do all that needs to be done before bringing a patient back to the room.
Why would anyone want to become an OR nurse? Surgery is a demanding place. It will push you to your physical and mental limits. There will be days when the docs yell at you. And, times when you drag yourself home so tired you can barely remember your name. Why would anyone put up with this?
We put up with it because it is so demanding. You have to be there, alert every moment. You work with other people who are as OCD as you are. Everyone pulls their own weight. Slackers will not make it in an OR.
Everyone has their reasons. It may be the money, the instant gratification or the challenge. Many OR nurses love the variety and love having one patient at a time. For others it's saving lives. Here are ten reasons you should be an OR nurse.
1. Money And On-Call
The increase in pay you experience when you are an operating room nurse is not the only reason you stay. But, it is a reason. Salary is a good thing to look at if you are wondering about changing your career path. Operating room nurses make more than other nurses. The median salary of a operating room registered nurse in 2018 was $88,350. The median salary of a floor nurse was $75,510.
Operating room nurses make more money due to being "on-call". "On-call" means that you must come to work immediately when called. Most often you need to be at the hospital, all ready to go within 30 minutes. I have found, as a traveling nurse, that one day a week and every fifth weekend is a normal amount of call.
The hours you take call varies with facility. You will share call with the other staff nurses. The larger the hospital, the more people who are employed, the less call you have to take. The small facilities have less people, so you end up with more call. Some places have come up creative approaches for call, such as hiring someone to be on-call as their full-time job.
"Call" pay is not part of your salary, it is over and above. You receive a minimal hourly stipend (usually about 5 to 10 dollars an hour) to be waiting on-call. When you go into work on-call you're paid time and a half. I have made up to double my pay in a two week period.
Nursing is a caring profession. We, as nurses, actually do care about the people we are in charge of. Nurses are people who find personal satisfaction in helping others. Many floor nurses are of the opinion that OR nurses do not perform a lot of patient care. But they are wrong about that.
In the operating room your main job is patient advocate. You are the patient's voice while they are sleeping. You are the one who relays information to the family and friends waiting. You are the one watching over every patient like a guardian angel. Your patient may not be awake to talk with you, but every action you perform is for their good.
3. Instant Gratification
Do you like instant gratification? The OR is the only place in nursing that you have instant gratification several times daily. The patient comes in broken, we fix them, and send them home. Of course this is not the scenario 100% of the time, but close enough.
4. Personal Satisfaction
I strive to improve myself on a daily basis. I have strong beliefs that we are here for each other. We each should try to make a positive improvement in other people's lives. I go home at night and know, without a doubt, that I have helped make another person's life a little easier. I get personal satisfaction by doing these things. And, as a nurse, I am also paid to do these things.
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”— Ralph Waldo Emerson
Nurses enjoy generous benefits. You can get the HMO insurance because you know which doctors are good. Here is a noninclusive list of benefits:
Medical, Dental and Vision Insurance
Life and ADD insurance
Long-Term and Short-Term Disability
Discounts to Fitness Centers, Phone Plans, and more.
Sign-On Bonuses and Relocation Pay
One Patient At A Time
6. One Patient At A Time
Working on a hospital floor requires you to care for five to ten patients at a time. You are always running between them. You never have time to do any teaching. Pain medication is always late. The call lights are on every moment. It is a very frustrating job.
I worked on various floors as a travel nurse in the mid 1990's. I remember they never called me in unless I had 13 or more patients. The other nurses on the floor would have the same amount. The hospital did not supply a nurse's aid of any type, so we did all the vitals ourselves. Talk about not having enough time!
The ability to focus on one patient at a time is one of the most wonderful things in the operating room. No running between patients, not having enough time for them all. In the OR, people come one at a time. This is a luxury in the nursing world.
If you love a challenge, the operating room is the place for you! Every day, even minute by minute, there are new challenges to face and overcome. You are always going above and beyond.
I love the challenge of working in the OR. I can go home at night feeling very satisfied that I did a good job against all odds. Working in an operating room will boost your ego.
"I'm not telling you it is going to be easy. I'm telling you it will be worth it."— Anonymous
8. Embrace Change
There is great diversity in a surgical nurse's responsibilities. Every case is different. Every patient has their own needs. During cases, you do many different tasks. No two days are alike.
You get to do a variety of cases throughout the day. You may start with an orthopedic case, then a general case and then some cysto. You learn a variety of techniques to do the same task. Everything is always changing.
9. No Worrying About Clothes Or Hair
You never have to worry about what to wear. You know you are only wearing it until you arrive at work. Then you change into scrubs. You also do not ever have to worry about how your hair looks. You will be placing some sort of hat over it when you get to work. This makes getting ready in the morning less of a task.
You will meet many strong-willed people in an operating room. This is fine because, chances are, you are strong-willed also. Working in surgery creates strong bonds with your co-workers. Getting through a tough case together causes an appreciation for their strengths. The camaraderie can not be beat.
You cannot get through a case without the help of everyone involved. It is wonderful to work in an area where everyone does a good job. You will gain the respect of your co-workers and they will gain your respect. You will make friends for life.
One Person's View of the Operating Room
last updated 1/26/2020
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
I am interested in becoming a scrub nurse. I am a sophomore in high school, and I am already on the medical track. Do you have any advice?
I have another article that gives my best advice to new operating room nurses. You may want to read that.
Most facilities require the RNs to circulate as well as scrub. There are still a few that employ only RNs; in these, it is easier to focus on the scrub nurse role.
Have you been in an operating room? It would be good to find a surgeon who will let you come and observe a few times. I mean a few days, not just a few surgeries.
I feel Alexander's Care of the Patient in Surgery is an excellent investment. I recommend it for all nurses new to an OR.
The only other thing I can think of at the moment is trying to get a job in the central sterile department. If you cannot get hired, try to volunteer. Central sterile is where all the surgical instruments are sterilized. Being there will help you to learn the instruments and their uses. The people in central sterile are an excellent resource for this.Helpful 16
What is the purpose of choosing operating room nursing?
OR nursing is often chosen because nurses only care for one patient, or maybe the extra money.Helpful 2
© 2017 Kari Poulsen