18 Ways to Tell If You Are an Operating Room Nurse

Updated on January 31, 2018
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Kari has been an operating room nurse for 25 years. She has been everything from staff nurse to DON.


The Operating Room

Operating Room nursing is a very special calling. Not everyone is cut out for it and most will not put up with it. However, there is much fun to be had if you make it through the first year! You bond with the staff, and some become good friends.

OR nursing requires stamina and thinking on your feet. Whether you are circulating or scrubbing there never seems to be time to sit. It is the ever moving, ever changing calling of the few, the proud, and the crazy. (Note: You understand if you are an OR nurse!)

We live in a world of ever-changing technology, ever-changing technique, ever-changing surgeon preferences. Change is the only constant. If you can't live with change on a minute to minute basis, don't even come here!

At times the surgeons will yell at you and call you "The stupidest group of people" he has ever met. Other times they shake your hand and say "Thank you. I couldn't have done it without you." If you are easily flustered or take it personally when people yell at you, you will not make it in an operating room.

And you have to like to work. The longest I have ever worked consecutively is 26 hours. It was a busy day and night! We are the makers and the shakers. As far as I can tell, even truck drivers may not work so long. However, when you start in an OR, you will find out that you are miraculous. Suddenly, you will have powers not endowed on the normal mortal!

Extraordinary stamina, the ability to be in two places at the same time and more will be expected of you. The ordinary calls of nature such as bathroom breaks, lunch and a drink of water will be below you. (At least that is what your surgeons will believe.) You will become the super-nurse, the OR nurse!

How do you know if you are an OR nurse? Here are 18 ways to tell:

You Know You Are An OR Nurse When:

1. You have seen so many “privates” you would no longer recognize a "major".


2. All the things people don’t like about you make you really good at your job.

3. You go to work in the middle of the night in your “pajamas“, and don't change when there is a stat section.


Everyone hanging out in their "pajamas".
Everyone hanging out in their "pajamas". | Source

4. You don't think it is strange when people say, "I've never seen you with hair before."

5. It is commonplace to be yelled at if you make someone wait 30 seconds.

6. You talk about pus while you eat.

7. You yell "Code Brown" to get the surgeon out of the room.

8. You will eat anything in the lounge, even Jalapeno pretzels.

Eat Anything

Food is Food.
Food is Food. | Source

9. You “tie up” your doctors and everyone thinks it is OK.

Tied Up

Not quite how we do it in the operating room.
Not quite how we do it in the operating room.

10. People tell you, “I’ve never seen you in clothes before” when they see you shopping.

11. You sleep when you can, you eat when you can, and sometimes it’s just easier to put in a foley catheter!

12. When you are out with your friends you can anticipate who needs a drink 10 minutes before they ask.

13. You also know who will be early, who will be late and who will be on time, and you plan accordingly.

14. You do not listen to the conversation until someone says, "I need", "I might", "I think", only to find out you already have it.

15. Your anticipation skills are so good, people swear you are a mind reader.

16. Five people can be yelling at you at the same time and you do not get flustered or upset.

17. You can get someone to trust you with their lives in five minutes or less.

18. You are so aware of your personal space, your friends swear you have eyes in the back of your head.


Eyes in the back of the head.
Eyes in the back of the head. | Source

Be More Than You Thought You Could Be

You too can be more than you ever thought you could be. You can achieve super-human status,otherwise known as an OR (operating room) nurse. There are never enough of the good ones, so you will always have a job. If you would like to escape from the uncertainty of the economy, become an OR nurse. Not only will you always work, but at times you will work more than you would like to. That's OK though because you are doing what you love.

Operating Room Nurses Will Laugh!

© 2009 Kari Poulsen


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    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 2 months ago from Ohio

      I'm glad you enjoyed it, too. :)

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      too 2 months ago

      Too funny but so true

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 5 months ago from Ohio

      Haha, and the looks you get from others. Thanks for reading, Peggy! :)

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 5 months ago from Houston, Texas

      I started my career in nursing as an OR nurse in the Texas Medical Center. It is challenging and fun. I can truly relate to what you mentioned about meeting people outside of the OR and them saying "I have never seen you in clothes before." Haha!

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      Pat Duerinskx 3 years ago

      I have been an OR nurse for 49 years in both GB and Canada and I still love every minute I spend in the OR.

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      ktt61201 3 years ago

      I have been in the OR for 18 years, I'm a CST not a RN, anybody who thinks OR nursing is easy clearly has not been paying attention.

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      Red1967 3 years ago

      Agreed w/comments. Over 40yr OR experience I still tell my patients my job simply put is "to know you,to love you,to guide you & protect you through the surgical process. It takes many members on our TEAM to take care of you: Anesthesia, Surgeon, OR Nurses,Surgical Techs & our beloved ORA's." All of us at any time of the day or night will take care of you at a moments notice...IT IS PART OF OUR DNA. We are impassioned about our skills providing you with excellence if care. We read,we study ever challenged with new procedures, new protocols,new equipment to afford our patients excellence of care. Yes, we are unique group of individuals, all with different skill sets, who join together as a TEAM. I can't imagine doing anything else. It is a vocation, a special calling we heard to provide this care to our patients.

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      or_rn 3 years ago

      You did forget one thing. I have been an RN in many different fields, I have never loved any as much as the OR. However it is nice to only have to deal with the family drama and listen to the patients drama for at most 15 min before they go to sleep. Sometimes I will be in line at a grocery store whatever, someone will droning on and on, and I will just think "Hey anesthesia, put them to sleep already!" :-) Plus you also forgot to say we are master contortionists who are not afraid to get on a bloody floor to reposition the surgeons foot pedal.

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      Gwen B 3 years ago

      For 34 years working as a OR scrub sister. I can only say: It was my live !!!! I loved it with heart and soul. Thanks to the rest of the team.

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      Karen Inno 3 years ago

      Surgical tech and RNs stand shoulder to shoulder in the OR and anesthesiologists and surgeons also. We cannot do the surgery without the brain surge of all these people. Did you watch the TV show M.A.S.H ? that's the OR ...

    • profile image

      Dustin Hall CST 4 years ago

      Not just nurses... i am a OR Surgical Tech.. our nurses are only cirulate.. a lot of these points refer to me... Just givin a little love to the Scrub Techs out there

    • profile image

      Mary.K 4 years ago

      Yes it is a very hectic job. I did it for thirty three years. It is very rewarding. I enjoyed it. After eight hours of work in the O R and after that six hours of work at home and kids... You are ready to go to bed.

      You fall asleep... At twelve the phone rings... Emergency ,rush to the O R.

      Then you get a special kick and you are on your feet. The rule at the VA ..in thirty minutes you must be in the OR.

      My best days when I worked in the open heart...O R a great place to work. But you have to like it or it is Hell on earth also you must have good co-works. That is half the fun of OR. All you O R nurses congratulations.

      Some times even now I miss it.


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      Marilyn 4 years ago

      Only "crazy" people join the OR team: where have you seen people who discuss the best menus while doing some form of bowel operation and all the guts spilling with brown smelly contents!

    • profile image

      Kari 4 years ago

      I'm an RN with 26 years in. ER to ICU to PACU. I have great respect for nurses in every specialty. Each one has it's own set of demands, priorities, and idiosyncrocies. I did travel nursing for 4 years and dipped my toe in the pools of other specialty areas just because I wanted to move to a particular city and telemetry, radiology, neuro, CVICU or med-surg were the only positions available. Learning to adapt quickly and be able to hit the ground running after 1-2 days orientation was a great learning experience. Not to mention the high pay and fun of being a gypsy every 3-6 months! I've always wanted to get into the OR but I'm cold all the time and think I would get grouchy in 60 degree rooms for long hours. It would be a nice break to care for patients under anesthesia and not have to deal with stressed out families. I was a cruise ship RN for a bit and felt trapped out in the middle of the ocean. I might get that trapped feeling in OR if I couldn't sip a drink or take a bathroom break. I guess the only way to find out is to jump in and see how it feels. I do prefer a fast pace and quick turn overs.

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      Greg 4 years ago

      The only thing I see OR nurses do is sit on the butts and chart while complaining about how little they get paid as the ST sweats out the case and takes the brunt of the surgeons frustrations.

    • profile image

      Hh 4 years ago


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      Kanye 4 years ago

      OR nurses have it easy. Floor nurses are the ones who have a tough job. Try taking care of 5 different patients at once. OR nursing is a cake walk.

    • profile image

      KathyJo 4 years ago

      So great! I also have been asked for the Otis elevator and after 30 years in the OR, I must admit, I've tried this on a few new "pups"! Love my job as much as my docs and co-workers! And of course our pts. Are the icing on the cake!

    • profile image

      Rita k 4 years ago

      I wouldn't trade my job for anything! I live for this. How lucky am I to say I am going to work and it's not work! Bring it on!

    • profile image

      Kim Hughes 4 years ago

      This is all true ...welcome to my world

    • profile image

      cvornurse71 4 years ago

      When I was a OR pup, I was asked and went on the search for the Otis elevator. (otis is the largest manufacture of the elevators that move you between floors)

      My personal favorite, from the urology dept.

      "go get me a Merkin" that one you can look up. After the urology coordinator quit laughing she told me what it was, and suggested I tell the doc all we had were red. (like my face)

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 7 years ago from Ohio

      Reyna Urduja, Glad to meet you! Thanks, but I'm not sure I'm ready for professor... :D

    • Reyna Urduja profile image

      Reyna Urduja 7 years ago from Philippines

      So glad to come across someone here with the same profession who enjoys writing and nursing as much as I do...

      so, you've tried the nurse/writer. why don't you try nurse/professor/writer? You've got so much to share.


    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 8 years ago from Ohio

      AE, Good to see you! LOL, you are so right, too many shows, too little reality. I love people also, I think it is a prereq to being a nurse. Glad to hear you love it as much as me! :D

    • AEvans profile image

      Julianna 8 years ago from SomeWhere Out There

      I see you love your job as an (OR)nurse just as much as I love my job as a (ER) nurse never a dull moment. What I enjoy the most is when patients have watched so much TV , ER etc. they believe they know more then the doctors and the nurses. O.K. so if you know what is wrong what are you doing in here? But I have to give them credit they certainly try. I love people so that is what counts, great hub k@ri. :)

      My addiction to Nursing is far worse then HP! lolololo

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 8 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks Haunty, I've gotten much out of it over the years. Confidence, agility, and the ability to think on my feet. It's very demanding, but extremely rewarding. :D

    • Haunty profile image

      Haunty 8 years ago from Hungary

      This job must be very self-selecting. Only the best of the best... lol

      Sounds like you're getting a lot out of it. :)

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 8 years ago from Ohio

      AM Gwynn, I'm glad you got a laugh. I know all about "those" Doctors! LOL!

    • profile image

      A.M. Gwynn 8 years ago

      I loved this! It's funny, I can become instantly popular in any social setting if I retell some of my sister's nursing/hospital/OR stories! HA! You nurses definitely are a special breed. And some of those Doctors?! I don't know how she does it. Great Hub.

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 8 years ago from Ohio

      frogdropping, That is the same reason, I tend to not like gyn surgery much! LOL, OR is not for everyone, and some people don't want to put up with the ego's, even if they love it.

    • frogdropping profile image

      Andria 8 years ago

      k@ri - how utterly fab that you're a nurse. No experience of it personally but my sister is one. Previously worked in gynae - but said she's seen 'far too many bushes' so opted for ICU nursing. Enjoyed that until she started a family and has now become a Health visitor - more related to the office hours. She does miss hands on nursing and would still be internal but for her boys.

      She did a stint on OR and loved it. I'm not sure why she ended up in ICU. Anyway - from what she tells me about nursing it's not a job for the sensitive among us, as you've pointed out.

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 8 years ago from Ohio

      James, Thanks! I don't think of it as special or something to deal with, I love being in the OR! :D

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 8 years ago from Chicago

      It takes a very special person to deal with all that blood and guts; the pain and fear of the patients; the anxiety and grief of their loved ones.  God Bless You for it.  I couldn't do it.  We need those who can.  Great Hub, too!

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 8 years ago from Ohio

      badcompany, ALL people are special! Thank you so much for your comment! :D

      mamakaren, You are too kind! I love you!

      pgrundy, I haven't seen the series yet. My kids hate watching any medical show with me, because (of course) I point out all that is wrong! LOL! You remind me of why I am a nurse and not a doctor...doctors cure diseases, nurses cure people! Thank You!!

    • profile image

      pgrundy 8 years ago

      This was a great read, thank you! Have you seen that new Showtime series "Nurse Jackie"? Your hub reminded me of that or vice versa. ER nurses are awesome, without you guys it would be way to scary to go there. When I ended up there for heart attack symptoms last May the doctors were dicks, the nurses were awesome. Could've just been a bad day I guess. :)

    • profile image

      mamakaren 8 years ago

      "the few, the brave, the crazy"---I love it! But you forgot " the super-intelligent, the quick thinking, the compassionate"!---all of which fit you to a "T"!

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 8 years ago from Ohio

      R Burow, Yaaahhhh for nurses! Tell your sister thanks for me...I don't think I would like working ER, it takes a lot of patience! And they always do the best job getting my patients ready. :D

      Elena, I kind of like that "superk@ri", LOL! If you can talk about pus when you eat, you at least qualify for honorary nurseship!

      Feline Prophet, LOL...it is my outlet now, and not one I am willing to give up. Where there is a will, there is a way!

      ethel, True and funny! Just not everyone's funny. :D

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Funny but oh so true I guess.

    • profile image

      Feline Prophet 8 years ago

      When do you get time to write? :)

    • Elena. profile image

      Elena. 8 years ago from Madrid

      That was SO much fun to read, k@ri!  Excuse me, I meant superk@ri!

      Just one wee thing: "You talk about pus while you eat."  I do that, too, but not many of the others. Guess I don't qualify for OR nurseship :-P

    • R Burow profile image

      R Burow 8 years ago from Florida, United States

      Kari, Let's here it for nurses everywhere ! I will be forwarding your hub to my ER nurse sister. I think she will identify. Thank God for what you do !

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 8 years ago from Ohio

      Rochelle, Yes, the stress can be deadly, but the rewards are great! I have seen many miracles in my life, but that is probably due to where I work! Yes, we are "special' people, but we are actually only human. I truly believe that all people are special in some way! :D

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 8 years ago from California Gold Country

      Interesting experiences to give an understatement. I know a couple of retired ER nurses, and they have some stories. The stress can be near deadly for all of you who do the hard work.

      I know I have been in a few situations when I really appreciated the focus of the ERNs-- of course, very few of us 'customers' know what happens in the OR-- I'm sure it takes on an added dimension when the patient or loved one is not consiously present.

      God bless you all.

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 8 years ago from Ohio

      Teresa, It's the kind of work you either love or don't do. We are a different people, and put up with things that normal people would not! LOL! I must say I love it!

      ralwus, bad, bad you! I know you are not allowed to work that long...but I am! I can work as long as I like in most states. (Kind of scary isn't it) I love you too, and all of my patients! I don't know what it is about people in need, but I think that is part of my personal problem! LOL ralwus, if you ever find your nurses are not caring enough, call me. I will come and tell them what for! (That is if your daughter ever needs any back up...as an ER nurse, I doubt it.) It may be true about big hands....but every person is different. I have seen some majors with small hands :D One of the best things in life is that everyone is different!

      Whoo-Hoo, Thanks for letting me know!

      VioletSun, You have to be a "little" crazy to work in OR. Yes, we give more than many, but it is very rewarding! Nurses are mostly co-dependents. We love to make others happy! Thanks for the congrats!

      May, My patience has grown over the years, but I used to be known as the nurse with no patients. (patients, patience rhymes you see! :D) Everything comes with time, depending on what you want to work on...I worked (and still do) on patience for many years! LOL, I don't know if I will ever really learn it, but I fake it well now!

      Betylckes, A sense of humor is mandatory! You know what I mean...so often it is laugh or cry. You can only cry so much, so you laugh...maybe inappropriately, but you laugh!

    • BetsyIckes profile image

      BetsyIckes 8 years ago from Pennsylvania

      I never worked in the OR but have been called up to draw blood STAT. I find just working in the medical field, you develop a different sense of humor! Great hub!

    • mayhmong profile image

      mayhmong 8 years ago from North Carolina

      And I thought being in the E.R itself was frustrated enough?! You must have soooo much patience to put up with all this.

    • VioletSun profile image

      VioletSun 8 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

      Nurses are special human beings, you guys have to be special to be in a field that requires courage, quick thinking and yes stamina, and above all where lives depend on you.

      Congrats on your 100 hubber score!

    • profile image

      ralwus 8 years ago

      Oooo, I forgot to congratulate you on your hubber score. 100 Woo-Hoo!

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      ralwus 8 years ago

      I for one love you people. All nurses, male and female. But as I truck driver I drove as much as 43 hours straight with few breaks. There is a way to cheat on log books. I also workd as many hours on bulldozers in the Oil Field to keep y'all warm in the winter. But a Nurse is so special and I have had many take the best of care of me. Maybe you can tell us if the thumb thing or the foot thing is true about men? hmmm? Very nice read k@ri, btw my daughter-in-law is an emergency room nurse.

    • Teresa McGurk profile image

      Sheila 8 years ago from The Other Bangor

      That was funny and scary -- you guys work so hard. Thanks for all you do! I guess it's the kind of work that will either drive you nuts or be really fulfilling. Bet you're great at it!