10 Reasons You Should Be an Operating Room Nurse

Updated on December 13, 2017
k@ri profile image

Kari was an operating room nurse for 25 years before she retired. Uplifting quotes are always wanted and Kari collects them.

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. 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.

More Money

OR nurses make more money.
OR nurses make more money. | Source

1. 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 a operating room registered nurse in 2016 was $72,180. The median salary of a floor nurse was $68,450. That is almost $4,000 more per year.

Operating room nurses make even more money due to being "on-call". "On-call" means that you must come to work immediately when called. "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 on-call. When you 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 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 the good of that patient.

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.

Personal Satisfaction

Satisfaction guaranteed!
Satisfaction guaranteed! | Source

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.

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

One Patient At A Time

You take care of one patient at a time.
You take care of one patient at a time. | Source

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.

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. Variety:

There is great variety 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. Don’t Have to Worry About Hair or What to Wear:

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! | Source

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.

One Person's View of the Operating Room

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.

© 2017 Kari Poulsen


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    • k@ri profile imageAUTHOR

      Kari Poulsen 

      22 months ago from Ohio

      Thank you, Jackie! Merry Christmas!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      22 months ago from The Beautiful South

      I cannot think of a more giving profession.

      Merry Christmas!

    • k@ri profile imageAUTHOR

      Kari Poulsen 

      22 months ago from Ohio

      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. :)

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 

      22 months ago from Orlando Florida

      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.

    • k@ri profile imageAUTHOR

      Kari Poulsen 

      22 months ago from Ohio

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

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      22 months ago from England

      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.

    • k@ri profile imageAUTHOR

      Kari Poulsen 

      22 months ago from Ohio

      LOL, I bet! Did you scrub in?

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      22 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

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

    • k@ri profile imageAUTHOR

      Kari Poulsen 

      22 months ago from Ohio

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

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      22 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      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.

    • k@ri profile imageAUTHOR

      Kari Poulsen 

      22 months ago from Ohio

      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!

    • k@ri profile imageAUTHOR

      Kari Poulsen 

      22 months ago from Ohio

      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.

    • k@ri profile imageAUTHOR

      Kari Poulsen 

      22 months ago from Ohio

      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.

    • k@ri profile imageAUTHOR

      Kari Poulsen 

      22 months ago from Ohio

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

    • k@ri profile imageAUTHOR

      Kari Poulsen 

      22 months ago from Ohio

      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.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      22 months ago from The Caribbean

      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.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      22 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

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

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      22 months ago from Olympia, WA

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

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      22 months ago from USA

      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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