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Is Perioperative Nursing Right for You?

If you’re looking for a great career that allows you to work in an operating room without having to spend years in medical school to become a surgeon, consider the field of perioperative nursing.

Job Duties

Perioperative nurses assess patients, provide preoperative and postoperative education, monitor a patient’s condition, and keep the surgical environment safe and sterile.

Types of Perioperative Nurses

Scrub Nurse – These nurses set up a sterile area before an operation, help the surgical team put on gloves and gowns, and hand the proper instruments and sponges to the surgeon during the procedure.

RN First Assistant – Extensive education is required to work as an RN First Assistant as the job includes directly assisting the surgeon by controlling bleeding and suturing incisions.

Circulating Nurse – Circulating nurses work outside the sterile surgical environment, and their duties include developing a patient’s care plan and observing the surgical team.

Perioperative nurses may also work as an operating room director, researcher, or a clinical educator.

Perioperative Nursing

Are there Specialties?

Yes. There are surgical subspecialties including cardiac surgery, oncology, pediatrics, and neurosurgery.

Personality Traits

Perioperative nurses should have the following traits:

  • Good communication skills
  • Good interpersonal skills
  • Excellent critical thinking skills

Where do Perioperative Nurses Work?

They work in urban and rural settings in ambulatory surgery centers (also called outpatient surgery clinics or day surgery units), physicians’ offices, and hospital surgical departments.


Becoming a perioperative nurse begins by earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. Programs include courses such as chemistry, psychology, nutrition, microbiology, and physiology as well as a considerable number of hours of supervised clinical experience in a healthcare setting.

Gaining employment in perioperative nursing usually requires a minimum of one year perioperative training. Most nurses receive this by enrolling in a post-bachelor’s perioperative certificate program or by attending an on-the-job training program found in hospitals and surgery centers.

Those who want to work as RN First Assistants will need to further their education through an RN First Assistant program available at colleges and other educational organizations that offer continuing education.


Most perioperative nurses start their career as floor or staff nurses before advancing into surgical nursing, and passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) is mandatory before they are allowed to practice.


The Competency and Credentialing Institute (CCI) offers the Certified Nurse Operative Room (CNOR) credential. The exam contains 185 questions and covers the following topics: communication, professional accountability, emergency situations, intraoperative activities, managing personnel, services, and material, developing individualized plans of care and identifying expected outcomes, preoperative patient assessment and diagnosis, and cleaning, disinfecting, sterilizing, transporting, packaging, and storing instruments and tools.

Eligibility requirements include:

  • A current RN license that’s unrestricted
  • Part or full-time employment in perioperative nursing in clinical practice, research, administration, or nursing education
  • Completion of at least two years and 2,400 hours perioperative nursing with at least 1,200 hours in the operating room

Recertification is mandatory every five years and can be accomplished by attending continuing education courses or passing a recertification exam.

The CCI also administers an exam for the Certified Registered Nurse First Assistant (CRNFA) credential. Having a valid RN license, a bachelor degree, and CNOR certification are among the eligibility requirements. Topics include basic sciences, assessment techniques, professional practice, and intraoperative. Recertification is required every five years, though nurses who hold both certifications only need to follow the CRNFA recertification requirements.

Job Outlook and Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for most registered nurses (including perioperative) is expected to increase 26 percent through 2020. The salary of perioperative staff nurses ranges between $65,100 and $67,800, while those who are clinical nurse specialists are likely to earn around $78,000. Location, education, employer, and certification determine one’s salary.

To learn more about this interesting career, please contact us.