Generally, nurses are known for staying cool and collected under pressure, but RNs who work in the stressful environment of the operating room (OR) seem to have godlike abilities to focus and be calm. Even routine surgeries can get complicated and must be handled with precision and care. These operating room nurse jobs aren’t for the faint of heart.
Most OR nurses work in hospitals, but they are also needed in locations like cancer centres, travelling operating rooms and surgical centres. All these locations come with a few on-the-job differences, but one thing they all have in common is the operating room itself. Operating Room nurses are expected to work in a sterile environment during surgeries.
Even though most surgeries are scheduled during regular daytime hours, urgent situations might require emergency surgeries. Have it in mind that these unplanned surgeries can happen at any time of day or night and require fast preparations.
Additionally, accidents and the resulting emergency procedures that come with them also don’t stick to the typical 9 to 5 schedule, so prospective OR nurses should expect overnight, on-call or otherwise non-traditional work schedules. There are crucial technical skills OR nurses need to succeed on the job. These include general nursing skills, like patient care and case management, as well as more specialized skills like maintaining a sterile field.
Have it in mind that working in an operating room is a challenging task, but OR nurses are well-prepared for the job thanks to the required training and education. In the United States, the first step to become an OR nurse is by enrolling in nursing school, completing the required clinical training and passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).
Some employers prefer to hire OR nurses with a two – year associate of nursing degree (AND), but many prefer RNs who have a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). There are also several certifications available for OR nurses. Although these are optional, they can show employers that you’re committed to a surgical specialty. The Certified Perioperative Nurse Credential (CNOR) or the Certified Ambulatory Surgery Nurse credential (CNAMB) can both be earned by meeting eligibility requirements and passing an exam.
Table of Content
- Pros of Being an Operating Room Nurse
- Cons of Being an Operating Room Nurse in the United States
Pros of Being an Operating Room Nurse
All nurses have their reasons for staying. It may be the extra money, the instant gratification or the challenge. A lot of OR Nurses also love the variety of duties and responsibilities. Most love having one patient at a time. For others it is all about saving lives. Nonetheless, here are pros of being an OR nurse.
Without doubts, nursing is naturally a rewarding job. Comforting people going through a hard time brings a sense of satisfaction. And actively working to give your patient a higher – quality life can be very fulfilling. Note that even the most difficult days can be assuaged by a heartfelt thank you after a patient wakes up from a successful surgery. Nurses relish these moments and cherish the patients who appreciate the work they put in. In terms of job satisfaction, being an OR nurse is something to expect.
Benefits and Pay
Generally, being an employee of a medical establishment can often be their benefits, including fantastic healthcare. In addition, nurses enjoy a comfortable salary and reasonable overtime compensation. Operating room nurses make more than other nurses.
The median salary of an operating room registered nurse in 2018 was $88,350. The median salary of a floor nurse was $75,510. Operating room nurses make more money due to being “on – call.” “On – call” means that you must come to work immediately when called during a specific time period. Most often you need to be at the hospital and ready to start the procedure within 30 minutes.
Exceeding Your Steps
According to reports, nurses can walk over four miles in the span of one 12 – hour shift. This is a wonderful way to get in your 10,000 steps a day. However, ensure to wear comfortable shoes that have extra padding and arch support, and give yourself a little slack at the gym if you’re not in the mood to work on cardio.
Operating rooms are expected to be fully staffed at all times, and some operate 24/7. Note that this leaves OR nurses with the ability to choose their schedule. If you want your weekends free to unwind, you can choose a weekday shift that leave Friday through Sunday open.
If you need your nights free to be with your family, you can choose to work day shifts. Or, if you’re a night owl, you can work all night. However, do not forget that different shifts bring in different situations. People who come in for a scheduled surgery during the day are better prepared and more at ease, while those who show up in the middle of the night may have been shot, stabbed, or in a major car accident.
The major characteristic of perioperative care is teamwork. The surgeon and nurses are always expected to work together seamlessly to ensure patient safety and the success of the surgery. Note that to stay completely focused on the surgical procedures; surgeons rely on their scrub nurse to exchange surgical equipment as needed.
They both rely on the circulating nurse to keep everyone up to date on the patient’s vitals. Coupled with all these, all three of them rely on the anaesthesiologist and anaesthetic nurse to keep the patient unconscious throughout the procedure by administering the correct amount of anaesthesia.
Holding bay nurses maks sure that all the necessary prep work is done with the patient, including confirmation of which body part and which side. Instrument nurses handle the sterilization and ensure that the proper tools are available for a successful surgery. And post – surgery recovery nurses are there to maintain the vitals until the patient is ready for discharge.
Every member of the team has a very important role in the health of the patient, the foundation that holds it all together is trust. Trust is what’s required when complications happen in procedures, when surgeries go into crisis management, and surgeons rely on nurses to anticipate their needs and work together efficiently.
Certification Increases Salary
In the United States, the national average annual salary for an OR nurse is over $92,000. Indeed, individual salaries tend to depend on experience and the state’s cost of living. One very sure way to increase your pay is to become certified. Perioperative nurses can become CNOR certified through the Competency & Credentialing Institute (CCI). By taking and passing their exam, OR nurses enjoy increased responsibilities and a 14% increase in salary on average.
Learning New Skills on the Job
Another benefit of working in an operating room is that you never stop learning. Surgery is an exploratory procedure where the surgeon depends on the majority of cases to inform their judgment. Yet, there are no two bodies that are put together exactly alike. In that way, people are snowflakes. And this entails learning new skills on the job constantly.
Cons of Being an Operating Room Nurse in the United States
It is imperative to note that this type of work is not for everyone. It is intense, the stakes are high, and it takes strong, unfaltering resolve. Here are few drawbacks of being an operating room nurse.
Agreeably, this job comes with so many benefits but being a nurse is physically demanding. In surgery, you may find yourself standing in uncomfortable positions for hours on end with little opportunity to rest. And if you don’t have proper posture, you can say goodbye to your hips, knees, and ankles.
Nonetheless, to avoid permanent joint damage, try to catch any early warning signs of poor posture or improper walking. Working as an OR nurse requires you to stand for long stretches of time and pace quickly. Stretching and taking care of your body is necessary for a long and happy career.
Mentally and Emotionally Taxing
Indeed this job can also be mentally and emotionally taxing. Bad days in an OR unit can mean severe complications, unsuccessful operations, and, at the very worst, the loss of a patient. Even though your work allows most patients to live a longer, healthier life, this can all be wiped out by one rough surgery.
Ideally, this loses or type of stress is mentally and emotionally taxing. Nurses always require outlets to vent or else they risk building up this stress inside their body. Many attend therapy or use spiritual practice to cope; others escape through hobbies and social outings.
Even though nurses are expected to work 12 – hour shifts, these consistently turn into 13 – and 14 – hour shifts. Extended hours take a toll on the mental well – being of nurses. On weekends, they’re constantly catching up on sleep, while on workdays; they have no time for anything else.
One of the toughest struggles for a dedicated nurse is to say no to cover a shift when a hospital is short – staffed. Nurses aren’t required to take the extra shift. But knowing how important it is to have a fully staffed OR, they often feel obligated to help.
In the United States, a good number of nurses have considered leaving their nursing career due to being overworked. And a good percentage also has considered leaving because they no longer enjoyed their job. Both of these are symptoms of burnout. Burnout is often described as a triple threat—feeling physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted. This is usually caused by a combination of extended periods of overwork and lacking a sense of fulfilment.
Wrong side, wrong site, wrong procedure, and wrong patient! These are the four most common surgical errors, according to industry reports. While the chance of one of these errors occurring is incredibly low—roughly one in 112,000 surgeries—the repercussions are severe, even life – threatening. It is this high – pressure scenario that is on OR nurses’ shoulders every shift.
Before your certification is complete in this field, you might have spent over a year of on – the – job training in a hospital. That’s coupled with the time it takes to graduate from your university. Schooling varies based upon the degree you seek, and higher levels of education often result in increased salaries as well as various future career options.
Also note that some nurses suggest that students complete their hours of training and become a fully – certified nurse before continuing with further education. So, you can make money while finishing your bachelor’s degree. Advanced degrees for nursing school can be achieved online, and it should be noted that some of the larger hospitals will require that you complete a BSN.
There are incredible benefits to becoming an OR nurse. Unfortunately, with the good comes the bad. However, doctors and patients both rely on operating room nurses to provide accurate information, so you need excellent communication skills to convey clear and concise messages.
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