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Perioperative Nurse

Perioperative nurses provide care for patients undergoing surgery. They work as part of the operative team of surgeons, anesthesiologists, and are responsible for the safety, planning, and monitoring of the patients having surgery. There are three general divisions in perioperative nursing: pre-operative, intraoperative, and post-operative care. Each area requires specialized skills, knowledge, and experience.

Education Requirements

All nurse specialty areas require an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree and successfully pass the state’s NCLEX-RN exam. Some hospitals or surgical centers prefer you to have a BSN but may accept an ADN. 

Perioperative training can be completed as an online hybrid program or as an on-site residency after being hired at a hospital.

How to advance/career pathway

Perioperative nurses must be BCLS certified but may also need ACLS/PALS certification. Many places prefer you have at least one year of experience in Med-Surg, ER, or critical care.

 

There are several paths to advance in perioperative nursing with certifications, advanced nursing education, and continuing education.

  • Certified Perioperative Nurse (CNOR) requires 2,400 hours of perioperative nursing in the last two years, and 1,200 or more of those hours must be in an intraoperative setting.
  • Certified Surgical Services Manager (CSSM) requires a BSN degree and additional contact hours or academic coursework.

You can get your MSN or doctoral degree as a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) in the perioperative setting, then apply for your Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS-CP) certification. 

  • Registered Nurse First Assistants (RNFA) require a BSN, years of OR nursing experience, and additional coursework.

RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Pre-operative nurses ready the patient for surgery, provide patient care, education, and check that paperwork is complete.  
  • Intraoperative care 

* The scrub nurse organizes and hands the doctor surgical tools and helps monitor the patient during surgical procedures.

* The circulating nurse ensures all supplies are immediately available, maintains safety and sterility in the surgical suite, and documents surgical information. 

* First assistants directly assist the surgeon by using tools to improve the surgical area’s exposure and suturing at the end of the surgery. 

  • Post-operative care is performed by the recovery room nurses who monitor patients after surgery until they are ready to leave.

MOST COMMON CASES

Perioperative nurses see a variety of surgeries or may specialize in one surgical nursing area such as cardiac, orthopedics, or gynecology.

How to become a

Perioperative Nurse

Perioperative nurses must be BCLS certified but may also need ACLS/PALS certification. Many places prefer you have at least one year of experience in Med-Surg, ER, or critical care.

 

There are several paths to advance in perioperative nursing with certifications, advanced education, and continuing education.

  • Certified Perioperative Nurse (CNOR) requires 2,400 hours of perioperative nursing in the last two years, and 1,200 or more of those hours must be in an intraoperative setting.
  • Certified Surgical Services Manager (CSSM) requires a BSN degree and additional contact hours or academic coursework.

You can get your MSN or doctoral degree as a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) in the perioperative setting, then apply for your Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS-CP) certification.

  • Registered Nurse First Assistants (RNFA) require a BSN, years of OR nursing experience, and additional coursework.

Specialty Groups and Communities

Association of Perioperative Registered Nurses (AORN)

  • Mission: “Our mission is to promote safety and optimal outcomes for patients undergoing operative and other invasive procedures by providing practice support and professional development opportunities to perioperative nurses.”
  • Cost: $160-205, annually.
  • Perks: Access to the award-winning, peer-reviewed AORN Journal; free CNE contact hours, clinical consult line; early access to local job postings; and more.

Competency & Credentialing Institute (CCI)

  • Mission: “As a non-profit organization, our mission is to promote continuous professional development which drives safe, quality patient care.”
  • Cost: Depends on certification being sought after.
  • Perks: Demonstrate your dedication to patient safety, validate your knowledge and skills, gain the recognition you deserve, and realize your career potential (more earnings, annually).

The Pros

  • Care for one patient at a time. 
  • Care for patients of all ages and conditions
  • Fast-paced and can learn about interesting cases 
  • Satisfaction in reducing patient anxiety and provide initial teaching

The Cons

  • Minimal family interaction and limited teaching
  • Only interact with the patient before and after surgery
  • Need to be available on call any day or hour
  • Work indoors in non-windowed operative/recovery suites
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Personality Traits

  • Calm, patient and flexible
  • Enjoys working in a team
  • Able to multitask and prioritize 
  • Interest in a variety of surgical treatments
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Average Salary

A perioperative nurse typically makes between $51k - $104k, with a median salary of $71,696. For the most up-to-date salary information, check out Salary Explorer.

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Certifications

Competency & Credentialing Institute (CCI)

  • Certified Perioperative Nurse (CNOR)
  • Certified Surgical Services Manager (CSSM)
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS-CP)
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Work Setting

Hospital operating rooms, ambulatory surgery centers, clinics, physician offices

Interested in learning more about what it’s like to be a Perioperative Nurse? We spoke to one to find out. Read What Does a Perioperative Nurse Do?