As surgical procedures become more complicated and advanced, nurses have been required to assume new responsibilities. Operating room nurses, also known as perioperative nurses, are responsible for prepping patients before surgery, assisting surgeons during it, and treating patients recovering from it.
Perioperative nurses are highly valued members of the surgical team and are frequently required to make informed judgments and resolve complex problems. They often meet with patients and their family members, surgeons, and other medical specialists to discuss surgical procedures and recovery. They’re also responsible for assisting with patient evaluation and treatment.
Perioperative nurses assist patients receiving surgery by evaluating, preparing, and administering care prior to, during, and following surgery. The following are procedures conducted by these specialists: patient evaluation, ensuring surgery rooms are sterile and organized, educating patients about appropriate pre and post-surgical activities, monitoring patients during and immediately following surgery, and coordinating patient care activities with other nurses and medical specialists.
Perioperative nurses assume the following roles during surgery:
- Scrub nurse – directly assist surgeons by handing them surgical tools, sterilizing equipment, and performing other routine tasks during surgery
- Circulating nurse – assist with surgery by overseeing nursing care administered in the operating room and ensuring rooms are sterile and safe
- RN First Assistant – assist with surgical procedures by suturing openings, controlling bleeding, and performing other specialized tasks. These specialists are required to obtain additional training
Some perioperative nurses fill operating room director positions where they’re responsible for supervising employees, managing budgets, and handling the business functions of surgical units. After acquiring some work experience, perioperative nurses can begin careers as clinical educators, management consultants, researchers, and medical equipment sales specialists.
Perioperative nurses can specialize in the following fields: neurosurgery, trauma, cardiac surgery, oncology, pediatrics, urology, general surgery, cosmetic surgery, dental surgery, ophthalmology, orthopedic surgery, and many other fields.
Perioperative nurses are employed in various settings, including:
- Surgical units within hospitals
- Same day surgery centers, also called ambulatory surgery centers
- Various medical clinics
- Doctors’ offices
Typically, registered nurses acquire some nursing experience prior to specializing in perioperative nursing. Nursing fields where relevant experience can be acquired include in the emergency room (ER) and critical care. These settings are typically stressful and fast-paced since life and death procedures are frequently performed in these settings.
Perioperative nurses need to possess excellent communication skills since they work closely with various people in stressful situations. Likewise, they must be able to effectively manage stress since they frequently treat people struggling with chronic pain and respond to medical emergencies. Additionally, perioperative nurses must take accountability for their decisions, be able to effectively instruct others, organize patient care plans, and work well in teams with other medical specialists.
Before qualifying for perioperative nursing training programs, one must become licensed as a registered nurse, which can be completed after earning an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics had reported that the median salary for perioperative nurses is $41,400 a year, while those with earnings in the upper percentiles fall anywhere from $50,000 – 89,000 annually.
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