If you’re wondering whether you need a BSN to work in the operating room, the short answer is “no.” The perioperative, or “OR,” nurse works with patients who are being prepped for surgery as well as their loved ones. Operating room nurses also function as members of the interdisciplinary care team. They evaluate patients, then plan and implement steps before, during, and after surgery. Nurses who enjoy directly working with patients may enjoy a career in the operating room.

Educational Requirements for an Operating Room Nurse

Perioperative nurses must have a valid registered nurse (RN) license in good standing. Aspiring RNs may earn this license by completing a minimum of a two-year associate’s degree in nursing. Although a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree is not required for all operating room nurse positions, many employers prefer the four-year degree. In addition, some employers may require that applicants agree to complete their BSN degree within a certain period of time after accepting the job offer. Perioperative nursing positions are generally available for new RNs who have completed a formal internship experience as well as to experienced RNs with at least one year of experience in bedside.

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Certifications and Credentials

According to the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN), there are a number of certifications available for the different nursing roles found in the operating room. These include the CNS-CP for clinical nurse specialists with a master’s degree, the CCSM for operating room managers who hold a bachelor’s degree, CRNFA for first assistants who directly assist the surgeon, and CNOR for perioperative RNs.

Finding Employment as a Perioperative Nurse

The most effective way for nurses to find jobs in the operating room is to consistently search for job postings in the perioperative field throughout local medical networks or hospitals. Newly licensed and graduated RNs may need to complete an internship that includes both a practical and didactic component before the employer deems them ready to independently fulfill the role. In addition, even RNs who have years of experience in other nursing specialties or those who come from an entirely different background can expect the same learning curve for an OR position and a lengthy orientation. In some cases, the process may be shorter, but this is dependent upon each nurse’s experience and prior knowledge of the operating room.

Roles of the OR Nurse

The OR nurse is responsible for maintaining patient safety standards, ensuring equipment is working as intended, and coordinating the use of equipment, instrumentation, and supplies for operative care. The perioperative nurse also advocates on behalf of the patient and manages his or her overall care before, during, and after the surgery. The nurse monitors, records, and communicates his or her patient’s condition and medical needs with the interdisciplinary team while ensuring that he or she is caring for the patient with an understanding of age and culture-specific needs. Finally, a perioperative nurse addresses the educational, psychosocial, developmental, emotional, and biological status of the patient and his or her family and addresses any concerns as they arise.

The field of perioperative nursing is growing, and nurses are needed now, more than ever, to help assist surgeons throughout often complex procedures. However, although each facility will have its own requirements in terms of experience and education for the OR nurses it employs, nursing students who are seeking a career in this field do not need a BSN to work in the operating room.