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Perioperative Nursing Careers: Typical Duties and Requirements

Career News September 23, 2013

Description and Duties of Perioperative Nursing

For registered nurses considering perioperative nursing careers, there is good news; demand is expected to remain high for trained, experienced perioperative nurses (O.R.). These specialized RNs work as an important part of the surgical team, along with other health professionals, the patient and family members to develop and evaluate the best course of treatment.

Working closely with surgeons, anesthesiologists, surgical technicians and advanced nurse practitioners, perioperative nurses are critical to the smooth functioning of patient care before, during and after the operation or procedure. Their duties include assessing patient response and health by monitoring cardiac and vascular functioning during the procedure, as well as administer and evaluate stress tests.

Typical roles for perioperative nurses may include:

•As a scrub nurse in the operating room, they select and pass along surgical instruments to the doctors performing the surgery or procedure.

•As a circulating nurse, they manage patient care in the operating room, helping ensure a safe environment for optimal surgical outcome.

Perioperative nurses’ skills are needed in ambulatory (day) surgical units, physicians’ offices and outpatient surgical centers, as well as hospital surgical departments. According to a June 2012 survey conducted by the Association of periOperating Room Nurses (AORN), 77% of its respondents work in hospital acute care units, with 23% employed in ambulatory surgical centers.

Breaking down the respondents’ job titles and roles, the survey found that 41% are staff nurses, 25% are managers, such nurse supervisors/team leaders or business managers, 16% are upper managers, including vice presidents, directors, or other administrators, 3% are RN first assistants (RNFAs), 1% are clinical nurse specialists, with less than 1% as nurse practitioners.

What are the Requirements for Becoming a Perioperative Nurse?

In addition to a two-year (associate) or four-year (bachelor’s) nursing degree and licensure in the state in which they practice, perioperative nurses will usually begin their careers as staff or floor nurses and through experience and education, move into surgical nursing.

According to the same AORN study, 39% of respondents held a bachelor’s degree in nursing, 32% had an associate degree or diploma, with 7% having a bachelor’s degree in another field. A master’s degree in nursing was held by 11%, with 8% holding a master’s degree in another field. Three percent reported holding a doctorate in nursing or in another field.

A Certificate in Medical-Surgical Nursing is offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). The requirements include:

•Hold a current active RN license.

•Have practiced as a registered nurse, the equivalent of two years, full-time.

•Have worked a minimum of 2,000 hours of clinical practice in the area of medical-surgical nursing within the past three years.

•Have completed 30 hours of continuing education in medical-surgical nursing within the past three years.

Perioperative nurses need to continually update their skills through continuing education to with the latest developments in surgical technology and patient care in and out of the operating room. With experience and advanced education, they may:

•Become operating room directors

•Qualify as nurse anesthetists

•Obtain certification as a RN First Assistant

•Enter clinical research or education

What Do Perioperative Nurses Earn?

Salaries for perioperative nursing careers tend to be higher than the average for RNs. The average perioperative staff nurse earned salaries of $65,100 – $67,800 annually, according to the survey, with managers/supervisors reporting an annual earnings ranging from $79,800 – $87,000. Hospital or other facility administrators reported average annual salaries of $99,000. Clinical nurse specialists, with a master’s degree or higher, earned annual incomes of $77,400 – $78,300.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment outlook for most RNs, including perioperative nurses, is expected to be higher than for most other occupations, with 26% growth predicted through 2020.

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