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Certified Operating Room Nurse Education Requirements and Career Info

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an operating room nurse. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

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Essential Information

An operating room nurse (O.R. nurse) is a registered nurse (RN) who has become certified to assist surgeons during operations. O.R. nurses also provide patient care during the pre-, intra- and postoperative stages. They must be able to follow directions and take constructive criticism in a fast-paced and challenging environment while maintaining a sterile and safe work area.

Required Education Undergraduate degree in nursing
Perioperative specialty nursing certificate or degree program may be preferred by employers
Licensure & Certification All RNs must be licensed; voluntary specialty certification available
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022) 19% for all registered nurses*
Average Salary (2013) $68,910 for all registered nurses*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements for Certified Operating Room Nurses

Certificate and degree programs in operating room nursing are often referred to as perioperative nursing programs and are designed for registered nurses (RNs) interested in working in perioperative care. They usually take about a year to complete and require an undergraduate degree in nursing. Additional preparation, such as critical care unit or emergency room experience, is encouraged for program admittance.


Perioperative nursing students receive lecture and clinical instruction in pre-, intra- and postoperative care. They learn about various aspects of operating room procedures, including disinfectant and sterilization, operating room safety, surgical tools, patient communication, anesthesia assessment and skin preparation. Clinical experience provides students with firsthand knowledge of general and specialty surgeries. Courses and clinics prepare operating room nurses to work with multiple surgical team members, such as surgeons and anesthesiologists.


After two years and 2,400 hours of perioperative nursing experience, professionals are eligible to take the voluntary certification exam to become certified operating room nurses (CNORs). A bachelor's degree is not required. The certification is good for five years and re-certification is available through a professional portfolio, contact hours or an exam. A CNOR has increased job potential since many employers prefer to hire certified professionals.

Career Information

Operating room nurses, also known as perioperative nurses, assist surgeons during operations, prepare patients for surgery and care for them afterwards. These nurses are responsible for a large amount of the communication and education of surgical patients and their families and make sure that the patient receives optimal care during and after their operation.

The sterilization of the surgical room is the responsibility of operating room nurses. During surgery, they may play a variety of roles. Circulating nurses take charge of the general nursing care and make sure the environment stays secure and relaxed, and scrub nurses select and handle the surgical tools used during the operation. Registered nurse first assistants require additional education and control bleeding, expose wounds and suture incisions under the surgeon's supervision.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of jobs for registered nurses was expected to increase 19% between 2012 and 2022. The BLS reported in May 2013 that the average annual wage for registered nurses was $68,910.

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