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What is a Scrub Nurse Salary?

Career News August 24, 2013

A scrub nurse salary can be difficult to quantify. Earnings depend on many factors, including training, education, advanced degrees, overtime opportunities, geographic area and the type of employer. Nevertheless, a perioperative nurse (the official designation for all nurses working with surgical patients) numbers are among the most highly paid nursing professionals.

Some Quantification Examples

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is a good place to start looking for answers about a scrub nurse salary. Unfortunately, the BLS does not break down the earning potential for specific categories of registered nurses (RNs). They do report that the median pay for RNs in 2010 was $64,690 per year or $31.10 per hour. It also notes that the job outlook for RNs is excellent, with demand likely to grow by twenty-six percent from 2010 to 2020.

Scrubs Magazine, a national quarterly for and about nurses, puts a top scrub nurse salary at $108,000 per year. At the low end, it quotes a figure of $61,000.

Mednurse.net cites a narrower earning range: from $65,400 to $93,920. In terms of hourly wages, this online site sets the range between $20 and $60 for scrub nurses.

In mid-2011, the Association of Peri-Operative Registered Nurses (AORN) conducted a survey of compensation. Based on the responses of more than 5,000 perioperative nurses, the AORN said their annual income ranged between $44,970 and $96,630.

More Education, Training, Money

The minimum educational requirement for a perioperative nurse is an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN). An ASN typically requires two years of schooling. Most employers prefer to hire candidates with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) as a scrub nurse. More importantly, bachelor’s degree, earned after four years of college, typically guarantees the scrub nurse a higher starting salary, with the differential as much as $10 per hour.

Most scrub nurses are also licensed RNs, although some surgical technicians also carry out perioperative nursing duties. Having an RN license does not guarantee employment as a perioperative nurse. Prospective employers also look for relevant on-the-job experience, such as assignments to fast-paced, high-stress areas like critical care and emergency room care. Such experience also boosts the starting scrub nurse salary.

The AORN offers its own training course to improve the odds of scrub nurse applicants. The Periop101 course provides a comprehensive introduction to the duties of a scrub nurse. Most hospitals have incorporated it into their own training programs.

Certification in basic life support techniques and advanced cardiac life support can also enhance a perioperative nurse’s earning potential.

A master’s degree, either in nursing or another relevant field, can boost a scrub nurse salary by up to $6,000, according to the AORN survey.

Location Factors

Geography also affects earnings in perioperative nursing. The AORN survey shows that scrub nurses working in rural hospitals earn about $9,000 less per year than counterparts working in urban or suburban settings.

The AORN also cites West Coast, Alaska and Hawaii as the best paying regions for scrub nurses. Scrub nurses located in the East South Central section of the country (Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee) earns less than the national average.

The AORN notes a direct relationship between the size of a scrub nurse’s earnings and the size of the facility employing him or her. In other words, a scrub nurse in a large community hospital can expect better pay than a counterpart working in a surgeon’s office. In addition, the nurse working in a hospital setting, particularly one with more than ten operating rooms, has opportunities for earning overtime.

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