Surgical Nurse Video: Educational Requirements for a Nursing Career in Surgery

Surgical Nurse Video: Educational Requirements for a Nursing Career in Surgery Transcript

Surgeries like appendectomies, heart bypasses and organ transplants are performed everyday, but they are anything but routine. Major procedures require the collaboration of an anesthesiologist, an operating room technician, surgical technologists and a surgeon. Surgical nurses are also present to assist these professionals and care for the patient before, during and after surgery. A bachelor's or associate's degree in Nursing and a registered nursing certification are the only two requirements that must be filled to become a surgical nurse.


Surgical nurses work in hospitals and operating rooms. Their main duty is to assist patients who are preparing for and recovering from surgery. Surgical nurses can be divided into three main categories: scrub nurses, circulating nurses and RN first assistants. Together, these professionals assist surgeons, organize tools and equipment in the operating room and coordinate the efforts of technicians, nurses and other operating room staff.

Job Duties and Skills

Surgical nurses, also known as perioperative nurses or operating room nurses, provide care for patients before, during and after surgical procedures. Prior to surgery, they clean, shave and sterilize patients' skin. During surgery, they assist the anesthesiologist by monitoring patients' vital signs. They also assist the surgeon by providing instruments and tools when they are needed. After surgery, the surgical nurse monitors the patient in the recovery room and contacts a physician in case of complications or other problems.

Some surgical nurses are in charge of sterilizing and preparing the operating room prior to surgery. During transplant procedures, it may be the surgical nurse who transports the organ from the donor to its final destination. Surgical nurses also directly assist the surgeon by providing suction, controlling bleeding and suturing.

Operating rooms are not the grand theaters they appear to be on television and in movies. They are often quite cramped, requiring economy of motion and open communication in order to avoid conflict. In addition to communication skills, a willingness to work as part of a team is needed.

Training Required

The Certified Nurse Operative Room (C.N.O.R.) certification is not required to work as a surgical nurse, but it can increase career opportunities and options. This certification requires 2,400 hours of experience as an operating room nurse as well as successful completion of a written test. The certification is designed to identify nurses who are able to provide a high level of care and provides employers with the ability to verify a surgical nurse's professional experience and achievements. This certification is available to registered nurses with either a bachelor's degree or associate's degree in Nursing.

All surgical nurses are required to pass the NCLEX-RN, an examination required by all states as part of the registered nursing certification process. After earning this certification, aspiring surgical nurses are encouraged to work in a fast-paced hospital ward, like the emergency room or intensive care unit. These units provide opportunities to treat critical patients, learn advanced treatment techniques and establish oneself as a proactive and take-charge nursing professional.

Career Options

While all surgical nurses work primarily in operating rooms and pre- and post-operative care units, three unique career options do exist. Scrub nurses provide surgeons with equipment, tools and supplies during the surgery and assist with sterilizing the operating area and patient prior to surgery. Circulating nurses coordinate the other nurses and technicians in the operating room in order to minimize chaos in what can be a tense environment. RN first assistants work alongside the surgeon to clear the field of view, suture bleeding vessels and provide other general assistance. Increased career opportunities can be found by earning a master's degree in Nursing. Most surgical nurse managers and nursing administrators have completed this graduate-level degree.


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