Who is a Perioperative registered nurse? salaries, roles, career, and qualities

A perioperative registered nurse, also known as a surgical or operating room nurse, is a specialized healthcare professional who provides care and support to patients before, during, and after surgical procedures.

These nurses play a crucial role in ensuring the safety, well-being, and comfort of patients throughout the perioperative period.

Before surgery, perioperative nurses collaborate with other healthcare professionals to prepare patients for their procedures.

They review medical histories, assess patients’ physical and emotional conditions, and educate them about what to expect during and after surgery. They also assist in preparing the operating room, ensuring that all necessary equipment and supplies are available and properly sterilized.

During surgery, perioperative nurses work closely with the surgical team, including surgeons, anesthesiologists, and surgical technologists.

They assist in setting up the sterile field, providing instruments and supplies to the surgeon, and ensuring the surgical environment remains safe and sterile. They also monitor patients’ vital signs, administer medications, and document the procedure’s progress.

After surgery, perioperative nurses help with the patient’s recovery and transition to the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) or other recovery areas.

They monitor patients’ vital signs, manage pain and discomfort, provide wound care, and offer emotional support to patients and their families.

Perioperative nurses require specialized knowledge and skills related to surgical procedures, sterile technique, anesthesia, and patient care in the perioperative setting.

Qualities of Perioperative registered nurse

Here are some of the top attributes a perioperative nurse should possess;

Critical Thinking and Decision Making

These nurses must think critically and make quick decisions in high-pressure situations. They assess patients’ conditions, anticipate potential complications, and develop appropriate nursing care plans.

Attention to Detail

Perioperative nurses must be meticulous and detail-oriented. They carefully review patients’ medical histories, preoperative assessments, and surgical orders.

They ensure that all necessary equipment, supplies, and medications are available and properly prepared.

Communication and Collaboration

Effective communication is crucial in the perioperative setting. These nurses collaborate with surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other healthcare professionals to provide seamless care.

They communicate vital information to the surgical team, including patient status, surgical site verification, and potential concerns.

Technical Skills

Perioperative nurses are proficient in various technical skills, such as sterilization techniques, operating room setup, and the use of surgical instruments. They assist in positioning patients, applying sterile drapes, and ensuring a sterile environment.

Compassion and Empathy

Perioperative nurses understand that surgery can be a stressful and anxiety-inducing experience for patients and their families.

They provide emotional support, reassurance, and empathy throughout the surgical journey. They respect patients’ autonomy and rights, maintain confidentiality, and ensure their comfort and dignity.

Who is a Perioperative registered nurse
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Top Roles of a perioperative nurse

The role of a perioperative nurse is multifaceted and thus can be broken into 5 phases below;

  1. Preoperative Phase
    • Assessing and preparing patients for surgery: Perioperative nurses conduct preoperative assessments to gather patient information, review medical histories, and identify any potential risks or complications.
    • Educating patients and their families: Perioperative nurses provide information and instructions to patients and their families regarding the surgical process, expected outcomes, and postoperative care.
  2. Intraoperative Phase
    • Collaborating with the surgical team: Perioperative nurses work closely with surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other healthcare professionals to ensure the smooth flow of the surgical procedure.
    • Assisting in surgical procedures: Perioperative nurses assist during surgical procedures by providing the necessary instruments, supplies, and medications to the surgical team.
    • Monitoring patient status: Perioperative nurses closely monitor patients’ vital signs, anesthesia administration, and overall well-being throughout the surgical procedure.
  3. Postoperative Phase
    • Providing post-anesthesia care: Perioperative nurses care for patients in the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) or recovery room after surgery.
    • Administering medications and treatments: Perioperative nurses administer postoperative medications, including pain management medications and antibiotics, as prescribed by the healthcare team.
    • Educating and supporting patients: Perioperative nurses provide postoperative education to patients and their families, including information on postoperative care, activity restrictions, pain management, and wound care.
  4. Sterile Technique and Infection Control
    • Maintaining a sterile environment: Perioperative nurses play a crucial role in maintaining a sterile environment in the operating room. They follow strict aseptic techniques, ensuring proper hand hygiene, gowning, and gloving.
    • Sterilizing and handling surgical instruments: Perioperative nurses are responsible for sterilizing, organizing, and safely handling surgical instruments and equipment.
  5. Advocacy and Patient Safety
    • Ensuring patient safety: Perioperative nurses are advocates for patient safety throughout the surgical process. They verify patient identification, surgical site, and consent before the procedure.
    • Monitoring and managing potential complications: Perioperative nurses closely monitor patients for any signs of complications, such as bleeding, anesthesia reactions, or respiratory distress.

How to Become a Perioperative Nurse

Becoming a perioperative nurse requires specific education, training, and certification. See below for more details;

Obtain a Nursing Degree

The first step is to complete a nursing program and earn either an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited institution.

A BSN degree is becoming increasingly preferred by employers and offers a broader foundation in nursing knowledge and skills.

Obtain Licensure

After completing your nursing program, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to become a licensed registered nurse (RN) in your state or country. Check the requirements of your specific jurisdiction for the licensing process.

Gain Experience

Acquire experience as a registered nurse, preferably in a setting that exposes you to surgical care. This can include working in an operating room, post-anesthesia care unit (PACU), or a surgical ward.

This experience will provide valuable exposure to perioperative nursing practices and enhance your skills and knowledge.

Pursue Continuing Education

Engage in continuing education and professional development opportunities related to perioperative nursing.

Attend workshops, seminars, conferences, and online courses that focus on surgical nursing, sterile technique, infection control, and patient safety.

Perioperative nursing certification

See below;

Obtain Certification

While certification is not mandatory to practice as a perioperative nurse, it is highly recommended and may be required by some employers.

The main certification for perioperative nurses is the Certified Perioperative Nurse (CNOR) credential, offered by the Competency and Credentialing Institute (CCI).

To be eligible for the CNOR exam, you must have a minimum of two years and 2,400 hours of perioperative nursing experience. The exam assesses your knowledge and competency in perioperative nursing practice.

Certification demonstrates your commitment to professional development and validates your expertise in perioperative nursing. It can enhance your job prospects, earning potential, and professional growth.

Specialize or Gain Advanced Education

Perioperative nursing offers opportunities for specialization and advanced education. You can pursue additional certifications, such as the Certified Registered Nurse First Assistant (CRNFA) or Certified Surgical Services Manager (CSSM), to advance your career and expand your scope of practice.

Additionally, you may consider pursuing a Master’s degree in Nursing (MSN) with a specialization in perioperative nursing to take on leadership roles or become a perioperative nurse practitioner.

Perioperative nurse salary in the USA

Like in other nursing specialties, the salary of a perioperative nurse in the USA can vary depending on several factors, including location, level of experience, education, certifications, and the employing institution. Salaries can also differ between urban and rural areas.

The average salary range of a perioperative nurse is from $27 to $55 per hour. Annually, it ranges from $60 to $120.

Perioperative nurses often have specialized skills and knowledge, which may result in higher earning potential.

It’s also worth considering that salary ranges can differ based on the type of healthcare facility. Perioperative nurses working in hospitals, surgical centers, or specialized surgical hospitals may have different salary structures. Additionally, factors such as overtime pay, shift differentials, and benefits can affect overall compensation.

A final thought on Perioperative registered nurse

Perioperative registered nurses play a vital role in the surgical process, providing essential care and support to patients before, during, and after surgery.

Their extensive knowledge, critical thinking abilities, technical skills, and compassion contribute to successful surgical outcomes and patient safety. Perioperative nursing requires a strong commitment to continuous learning and professional development to stay current with evolving practices and advancements in surgical care.

By embracing the core qualities of perioperative nursing and obtaining relevant certifications, these dedicated professionals make a significant impact on the lives of patients and contribute to the overall success of surgical teams.


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