An operating room registered nurse, also known as a perioperative nurse, cares for patients at all stages of operative care (before, during, and after surgery). There are three areas of the operating room in which such a nurse might focus: circulating, scrub nurse, and first assistant.
The circulating nurse is concerned with maintaining a sterile environment in an operating room; this type of nurse opens sterile packages containing items that assist with operating procedures, as well as documents procedures needed to maintain a sterile environment. The scrub nurse, wears gloves and scrubs, and hands the surgeon(s) necessary instruments; he or she also monitors a patient's condition during surgery. The first assistant works most closely with the surgeons, doing some hands-on performance on the patient such as cutting into tissue or suturing, and hands the surgeon(s) the necessary instruments.
Operating room nurses work indoors in sterile operating rooms in hospitals and medical facilities. Their immediate supervisors are the surgeons with whom they work, in addition to administrative supervisors within the nursing hierarchy. They work not only with surgeons, but with fellow nurses and anesthesiologists. Their work schedule might call for them to be on duty any day of the week, at any hour, either by scheduled assignment or on short notice. Operating room nurses may be exposed to dangerous substances that are used in sterilization and anesthesiological procedures, and they are also are around sharp objects.
A registered nurse must complete of an accredited nursing program to receive certification. Being a first assistant also may require a certain number of years in practice as a registered nurse or additional coursework. Being an operating room nurse requires critical thinking, the ability to work in a fast-paced environment and be highly adaptive. Because these nurses work in situations that potentially involve death, they should be emotionally prepared to handle a variety of outcomes without a drop in performance.
Registered Nurse (RN), Operating Room Tasks
- Supervise surgical technologists and medical assistants during surgeries.
- Provide education to patients and their families about the recovery process.
- Monitor patients for signs of complications during and after operating procedures.
- Track patients' vital signs during operations.