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10 Reasons to Be an Operating Room Nurse

Kari is a retired operating room registered nurse. Although she is retired, the interest never waned. She loves all things OR-related.


Why Surgery?

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. There will be times when you drag yourself home so tired that you can barely remember your name. Why would anyone put up with this?

I 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.

All nurses have their reasons for staying. It may be the extra money, the instant gratification, or the challenge. Many OR nurses love the variety of duties and responsibilities. Most love having one patient at a time. For others, it's all about saving lives. Here are 10 reasons you should be an OR nurse.

OR nurses make more money.

OR nurses make more money.

1. More Money

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 an operating room registered nurse in 2021 was $82,750. The median salary of a floor nurse was $77,600.

Operating room nurses make more money due to being "on-call." "On-call" means that you must come to work immediately when called during a specific time period. Most often you need to be at the hospital and ready to start the procedure 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.

2. Caring

Nursing is a caring profession. We, as nurses, actually do care about the people we are in taking care 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 it's close enough.

Satisfaction guaranteed!

Satisfaction guaranteed!

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

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5. Benefits

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
  • Retirement Plans
  • Pension Accounts
  • Long-Term and Short-Term Disability
  • Discounts to Fitness Centers, Phone Plans, and more.
  • Sign-On Bonuses and Relocation Pay
You take care of one patient at a time.

You take care of 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-1990s. 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.

7. Challenge

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. Diversity of Duties

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 always find a helping hand!

You will always find a helping hand!

10. Teamwork

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.

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

Question: 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?

Answer: 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.

Question: What is the purpose of choosing operating room nursing?

Answer: OR nursing is often chosen because nurses only care for one patient, or maybe the extra money.

© 2017 Kari Poulsen


Kari Poulsen (author) from Ohio on December 25, 2017:

Thank you, Jackie! Merry Christmas!

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on December 25, 2017:

I cannot think of a more giving profession.

Merry Christmas!

Kari Poulsen (author) from Ohio on December 18, 2017:

Thanks Catherine! Most people become nurses because of the caring aspect. I put money first because I really want to interest nurses in the operating room. Caring we get to do in any and every setting. But for most it is the first reason we are nurses. It is wonderful to be paid to do what you like to do most in life. :)

Catherine Giordano from Orlando Florida on December 17, 2017:

I like that caring is on your list. If I have to have an operation, I'd like to know that caring was number one on your list. Anyway, it was a great list and it gave me a lot of insight into what a nurse's life is like when she's working. Whenever, I have been in the hospital or even just having an outpatient surgical procedure, it is the nurses who provided comfort. Thank you.

Kari Poulsen (author) from Ohio on December 17, 2017:

Thank you so much, Nell! I, also, have great respect for all nurses. :)

Nell Rose from England on December 17, 2017:

As I said before, you nurses are the most awesome of the best! lol! sorry about the mixed metaphor! I find you are all the best, we could never do without you.

Kari Poulsen (author) from Ohio on December 16, 2017:

LOL, I bet! Did you scrub in?

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on December 15, 2017:

Scrub up we have a bleeder Oncology patient here. Were words I will never forget.

Kari Poulsen (author) from Ohio on December 15, 2017:

Eric, no wonder I like you. Raised by and with a bunch of OR people. I'm glad you liked the article. Thank you!

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on December 15, 2017:

Mom was one. Big sister was one and nephew was one. Back it the fifties my dad did stuff like appendectomies and tonsillectomies in his office. Perhaps hernias and compound fractures it seems.

Mom left to raise 6 of us and then to be the chair of the hospital board. My sister left because she missed the social nursing end of it. And my nephew now climbs into a helicopter as EMT Paramedic.

This is cool and I like it. Sometimes tough to decide where we may do the best good. Thank God for nurses.

Kari Poulsen (author) from Ohio on December 15, 2017:

Dora, It's a pity we can't turn back time. I think you would like being an OR nurse. Thanks for reading and commenting!

Kari Poulsen (author) from Ohio on December 15, 2017:

Thank you, Alicia! I wrote it for nurses, so I'm glad to know it's informative to the lay-person also. We need more nurses for the operating room. The OR nurse's average age keeps rising.

Kari Poulsen (author) from Ohio on December 15, 2017:

Thank you, Alicia! I wrote it for nurses, so I'm glad to know it's informative to the lay-person also. We need more nurses for the operating room. The OR nurse's average age keeps rising.

Kari Poulsen (author) from Ohio on December 15, 2017:

Bill, the OR is not for everyone. But, if it's for you, you love every minute of it. Thanks for stopping by!

Kari Poulsen (author) from Ohio on December 15, 2017:

FlourishAnyway, Thank you, I did love my job! Call is a double-edged sword. Nurses are generally paid hourly, so it was good money taking call. It was also exhausting, lol.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on December 14, 2017:

If I could turn back the clock, I'll try being a nurse and you make the OR seem inviting. The challenge and the instant gratification are appealing.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on December 14, 2017:

This is a great article for people who are thinking of becoming a nurse. It's informative for other people, too.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 14, 2017:

Trust me, Kari, there are no good reasons for me being in an operating room, but I love your lost nonetheless. :)

FlourishAnyway from USA on December 13, 2017:

I like your enthusiasm for the job. Many people would be challenged to generate a top 10 style list for their job. It’s nice that you love your career so much. That on call would mix me. Been there, done that way in corporate life and didn’t like it. Of course, I was on salary but still I didn’t like being tagged for more work on weekends and holidays.

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