What Do Operating Nurses Do? A Closer Look at Life in the OR 987839088534212 [9:30 AM] Katie Iglewski

Are you interested in breaking into a fast-paced operating room nurse career? 

Thousands of people are drawn to operating room (OR) nursing for the rewarding work and job benefits it offers. Yet, some nurses feel intimidated by the career and are questioning whether it’s worth it. 

Taking the time to evaluate if OR nursing is a good fit for you is a good next step.

In this guide, you will understand what operating room nurses do and the opportunities available to move into this field of nursing if it is the right choice for you.


Table of Contents



What Is It Like To Be an Operating Room Nurse?

Operating room nurses (OR nurses) or perioperative nurses provide care for patients who are undergoing surgery. 

OR nurses perform tasks such as:

  • Assisting with anesthesia
  • Monitoring vital signs; and
  • Helping the surgeon operate

Having excellent communication and organizational skills is necessary for OR nurses to provide the best possible patient care.

OR nurses typically work long hours. To provide the best patient care, these nurses work in shifts so that everyone can take time off between their demanding schedules.

Many nurses choose this career because of their dedication to patient care and the responsibility that comes with it. 

Do you enjoy helping people and feel a sense of fulfillment in what you do as a nurse? If so, you may be a good fit for an operating room nurse career.

Let Trusted Nurse Staffing help you locate your travel nursing opportunity by visiting Pronto and searching our available OR travel nurse jobs with the help of our supportive staff. Click below.


what do operating nurses do


Is It Difficult Being an Operating Room Nurse?

Although “difficult” is subjective, the fact is OR nurses work in high-stress situations.

They provide critical care — often under extreme conditions — which requires OR nurses to be able to:

  • Think on their feet
  • Make quick decisions
  • Remain calm under stress
  • Work closely with surgeons; and
  • Handle difficult patients and situations


what is it like to be an operating room nurse


What Does an Operating Nurse Do? 

Operating room nurses are responsible for providing care to patients before, during, and after surgery. To ensure the best possible care for patients, operating room nurses work with:

  • Surgeons
  • Anesthesiologists; and
  • Other medical professionals

Operating room nurses may perform duties in the following three phases of surgeries: 

  • The preoperative phase is the time leading up to surgery and assigned to a pre-op nurse.
  • The intraoperative phase is the time during the surgery and is accompanied by an intra-op nurse.
  • The postoperative phase is the time following the surgery and is serviced by a post-op nurse

Now that you know nurses are involved in all phases of surgery, let’s take a look at what they typically do during each one.


Pre-Op Nurses

Pre-op nurses help medical professionals prepare the patient for surgery. They are the lead person who can spot concerns before a patient goes into the operating room.

Before surgery, pre-op nurses may:

  • Provide directions to the surgery area
  • Explain the procedure to be performed
  • Inform the patient of the risks and benefits of surgery
  • Review any preoperative directives that have been given
  • Answer any questions the patients or their families may have
  • Assist with any prep work required for surgery; and
  • Check-in patients to ensure they have information they need about the surgery


Intra-Op Nurses

Intra-op nurses are in charge of the care of the patient during the surgery and also assist the medical team when necessary.

During surgery, intra-op nurses may:

  • Monitor vital signs
  • Stay with the patient
  • Ensure a safe and efficient surgery; and
  • Work with the anesthesiologist and administer medicine


Post-Op Nurses

Post-op nurses provide support to patients who have undergone surgery. They help them recover from the surgery and get back to their normal life.

After surgery, post-op nurses may:

  • Provide pain medication as needed
  • Follow up with the patient after surgery
  • Prescribe antibiotics if necessary after surgery
  • Answer any questions that the patient may have
  • Check on patients to make sure they’re doing well after surgery; and
  • Track vital signs and respond to any emergencies that may occur postoperatively


operating room nurse


What Surgeries Do Operating Room Nurses Assist With?

Operating room nurses are typically responsible for providing direct patient care, assisting with procedures, and providing support during surgery.

Generally, operating room nurses assist surgeons during common surgeries, such as:

  • Trauma
  • Neurosurgery
  • Cardiac surgery
  • General surgery
  • Transplant surgery
  • Breast cancer surgery
  • Plastic or reconstructive surgery
  • And any other type of surgery

Operating room nurses play a critical role in ensuring that patients receive the best possible care. They must be knowledgeable about a variety of medical procedures such as:

  • Surgery
  • Anesthesia; and
  • Critical care


Where Do OR Nurses Work?

Operating room nurses are the backbone of efficient and safe surgeries across the country. 

OR nurses work in the operating room, which is a sterile and controlled area where surgical procedures are performed.

Because of the critical nature of their work, it is common for OR nurses to work in high-quality medical facilities.


Cancer Centers

Cancer center operating room nurses are in charge of cancer patient care during medical procedures.

They work in a specific area that is identical to a hospital’s operating room, which regularly undergoes procedures that are:

  • Surgical
  • Procedural
  • Diagnostic; and
  • Interventional


Outpatient Clinics

Operating room nurses are the first line of defense in providing quality patient care in outpatient clinics and often spend more time with patients than physicians or other providers.

They have a wide range of responsibilities in the operation room, such as:

  • Preparing patients for surgery
  • Monitoring anesthesia levels
  • Fluid administration; and
  • Running the room


Emergency Rooms

Operating room nurses in emergency rooms provide care to patients who have been brought in with emergency injuries or medical conditions.

Including the standard operating room nurse care, they are responsible for:

  • Creating a safe and comfortable environment for the patient; and
  • Ensuring that they receive the best possible care during surgery


Military Bases

Operating room nurses work on military bases and provide care to soldiers during their operations.

The role of the operating room nurse is to provide:

  • A safe environment for soldiers during their operations
  • Leadership in taking charge in case of emergencies; and
  • Treatment of soldiers who were injured before the operation


What Are the Requirements To Become an Operating Room Nurse? 

Becoming an operating room nurse requires a lot of hard work, dedication, and perseverance. With the right education and experience, you can become an operating room nurse.

As an operating room nurse, it is important to have the following:

  • Experience working in a hospital setting
  • Knowledge of cardiac arrest protocols
  • A degree in nursing or a related field; and
  • Certification in Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS)

Many of the requirements for operating room nurses vary depending on the specific facility or hospital where you want to work. 

Job requirements for operating room nurses vary depending on the specific hospital or clinic but usually include excellent communication and organizational skills. 

Most hospitals will require that you have at least two years of experience as a registered nurse. 

Other skills OR nurses need include being able to:

  • Problem solve
  • Work with a team
  • Pay attention to detail
  • Communicate effectively
  • Handle high levels of stress; and
  • Respond to emergencies quickly


operating room RV


How Much Do Operating Room Nurses Make? 

Working in the OR as a nurse makes you one of the most important members of the surgical team. The job is very demanding, so it is no surprise that OR nurses can earn high salaries.

According to Indeed, the average salary for operating room nurses is:

  • $151,402 per year
  • $10,720 per month
  • $71.40 per hour

This figure varies depending on the experience and location of the job, but it tends to be higher than other nursing roles.

According to self-reported salaries in the United States, the highest-paying cities for OR nurses are:

  1. Livingston, NJ
    $172,378 per year
  2. Miami, FL
    $166,013 per year
  3. New York, NY
    $160,214 per year
  4. Tampa, FL
    $150,514 per year
  5. Seattle, WA
    $142,087 per year
  6. Orlando, FL
    $136,760 per year
  7. St. Louis, MO
    $124,705 per year
  8. Richmond, VA
    $118,778 per year
  9. San Antonio, TX
    $107,898 per year


What Are the Pros and Cons of Working in the OR as a Nurse?

Being an operating room (OR) nurse, also known as a perioperative nurse, can be a rewarding and challenging career. Like any profession, it comes with its own set of pros and cons. Here are some of the key advantages and disadvantages of working in the OR as a nurse.


OR Nursing Pros

Nursing can be emotionally exhausting — you are always trying to look to the bright side of every situation. As an operating nurse, here’s some of what you can look forward to:

  • Job satisfaction: Many OR nurses find their work highly rewarding because they play a crucial role in saving lives and improving patients’ health. Being part of a surgical team can be emotionally fulfilling.
  • Specialized knowledge: OR nurses gain specialized knowledge in surgical procedures, instruments, and equipment. This expertise can open up opportunities for career advancement and specialization.
  • Stable employment: The demand for healthcare professionals, including OR nurses, tends to remain relatively stable even in economic downturns. This can provide job security.
  • Variety: The OR environment is dynamic, and each surgery is unique. OR nurses are exposed to a wide range of surgical procedures and medical conditions, keeping their work interesting and challenging.
  • Teamwork: OR nurses work closely with surgeons, anesthesiologists, surgical technologists, and other healthcare professionals. This collaborative environment can foster strong teamwork and professional relationships.
  • Career growth: OR nurses can pursue further education and certifications to advance their careers. They can become perioperative nurse educators, nurse managers, or even nurse practitioners with the right qualifications.


OR Nursing Cons

Every career has its downsides, and OR nursing is no exception. As much as you want to stay positive as a nurse, it doesn’t hurt to know that there are realities to the position that won’t always be the best. Here are some of the disadvantages you can prepare yourself for ahead of time:

  • Emotional stress: Working in the OR can be emotionally taxing, particularly in high-pressure situations or during surgeries with unfavorable outcomes. Witnessing trauma or complications can take a toll on one’s mental well-being.
  • Irregular hours: OR nurses often work irregular hours, including nights, weekends, and holidays. This can disrupt work-life balance and personal schedules.
  • Physical demands: The job can be physically demanding, requiring long periods of standing, lifting, and assisting with patient positioning. This can lead to physical strain and fatigue.
  • Infection risk: OR nurses are exposed to various infectious agents. Proper infection control practices and personal protective equipment are essential, but there’s always some level of risk.
  • High responsibility: OR nurses have a significant responsibility to ensure that the surgical environment is sterile, the patient is safe, and the surgery proceeds smoothly. This level of responsibility can be stressful.
  • Patient outcomes: The nature of surgery means that not all outcomes will be positive. Dealing with patient complications or unsuccessful surgeries can be emotionally challenging.
  • Continuing education: Staying up-to-date with evolving surgical techniques and technology requires ongoing education and certifications, which can be time-consuming and costly. With Trusted Nurse Staffing, continuing education credits may be reimbursed — just another benefit of becoming a travel OR nurse!

Working in the OR as a nurse offers numerous rewards, however, it also comes with challenges. Whether the pros outweigh the cons depends on your personal interests, strengths, and career goals. It’s a profession that can be highly fulfilling for those who are dedicated to the field of perioperative nursing.


Ready To Start Working in the OR as a Nurse and Traveling the Country? Trusted Nurse Staffing Is Here To Help You Find the Career of Your Dreams

Establishing yourself as an operating room nurse can be time-consuming and difficult without the right support. You will need to be in the right location to gain experience on the job, and this can be a hard task to accomplish when looking for a job.

Trusted Nurse Staffing is an agency that specializes in placing nurses with medical facilities across the country. 

We make it our priority to help you find your ideal job as an operating room nurse.

With Trusted Nurse Staffing, you get the best of both worlds:

  • Top-notch staffing services
  • Job placement expertise
  • The best pay in the industry

By talking with one of our professional team members, you can learn about the operating room nurse career and determine if this is the right field for you. 

You can also explore different roles and find out what job requirements are necessary to become a successful OR nurse.

Are you ready to begin your journey into an operating room nurse career?

Trusted Nurse Staffing can help you find the career of your dreams. Click below to browse available operating room travel nursing jobs available now.


what do operating nurses do