Nurse holding equipment in the operating room

How to Become a Surgical Nurse

The Vital and Fulfilling World of Surgical Nursing.

Nurse holding equipment in the operating room

Surgical Nurses play a vital role in perioperative care. By assisting patients and other medical professionals throughout the surgical process, these nurses help improve patient care and operating experiences for everyone involved. One of the primary goals of a Surgical Nurse is to care for patients before, during, and after their surgeries. They are Registered Nurses who support operating room (OR) teams during surgeries. The procedures they perform can range from lifesaving to elective ones, all in the span of a single day.

The demand for these professionals has been steadily increasing in recent years, and this trend is expected to continue. The competitive compensation and opportunity to improve patient outcomes make Surgical Nursing a fulfilling career option for those in the profession. Aspiring Surgical Nurses must acquire specialized knowledge and skills before they can work in surgical settings.

This blog post covers the duties, skills, and educational requirements for becoming a Surgical Nurse. We’ll also go over salary information and the job outlook. Learn how to become a Registered Nurse and explore the best hospital nursing jobs to see if this career path is right for you.

Surgical Nurse: Definition

What is a Surgical Nurse?

A Surgical Nurse may also be known as a scrub nurse, operating room nurse, or perioperative nurse. Surgical Nurses offer both pre and post-op teaching in this role. In addition, they perform several tasks in the operating room. They also tend to patients in recovery rooms and provide them with post-surgical care. Some surgical subspecialties include areas like the following:

  • Neurosurgery
  • Cardiac Surgery
  • Trauma
  • Pediatrics
  • Oncology
  • General Surgery
  • Urology

Surgical Nurse: Job Description

What Does a Surgical Nurse Do?

A Surgical Nurse acts as the right hand of the surgeon they assist. Not only do they anticipate the needs of the surgical team, but they must know a wide array of surgical equipment. Some of their tasks include preparing both the patient and the operating room for surgery.

Surgical Nurse: Duties and Responsibilities

Below are just some of the day-to-day responsibilities of a Surgical Nurse:

  • Surgically scrubbing the patient before their procedure
  • Preparing the operating room for surgery
  • Ensuring the surgical tools are sterilized and ready for use
  • Scrubbing in during operations as directed by the surgeon
  • Handing the surgeon various tools during each procedure
  • Counting equipment before and after procedures
  • Collaborating and communicating with the surgical team

Surgical Technologist writing on a clipboard in the OR

Surgical Nurse: Skills

Surgical Nurses must maintain an important set of skills and qualities to thrive in their roles. Here’s a look at some of these key attributes:

  • Adaptability and Flexibility: While it may seem obvious, all nurses must be adaptable and resilient. Surgical Nurses must be flexible enough to juggle various responsibilities (often urgent ones) without missing a beat.
  • Strong Communication Skills: Excellent communication skills are vital to the success of a Surgical Nurse. They must communicate effectively with other nurses, medical professionals, patients, and families to ensure patient safety as well as optimal care. Essentially, Surgical Nurses should be some of the best team players around.
  • Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Detail-Oriented Natures: Surgical Nurses help ensure a safe, sterile environment with their attention to detail. They must also be able to think critically and solve problems in fast-paced environments. Think of these three traits—critical thinking, problem-solving, and detail-oriented natures—as the trifecta of Surgical Nursing.
  • Compassionate Traits: Surgical Nurses should be compassionate and empathetic in their role. This is because they care for patients who may be scared or in pain while undergoing surgical procedures. In addition to life-threatening situations, Surgical Nurses must also navigate anxious family members and stressed medical professionals.
  • Clinical Knowledge: We can’t highlight this enough—Surgical Nurses must maintain technical proficiency in areas such as sterile technique, surgical instrumentation, wound care, and more. Clinical knowledge is a big part of the job for professionals in the operating room.

Surgical Nurse: Work Environment

Where Do Surgical Nurses Work?

Surgical Nurses can work in a variety of settings. These include ambulatory surgery centers, day surgery centers, clinics, and physician offices. Perhaps most commonly, they work in hospitals; they often perform tasks in areas like operating rooms and recovery rooms. In addition, potential career opportunities for Surgical Nurses include specializations in areas like orthopedics, neurosurgery, or cardiovascular surgery.

Surgical Nurse Education & Certification

How to Become a Surgical Nurse

In order to become a Surgical Nurse, you will likely need to attend an accredited nursing program, such as the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program at Unitek College. Next, you will need to pass the NCLEX-RN licensure exam, gain additional training or experience, and seek certification.

When it comes to experience in the field, you will probably be required to obtain an additional year of education and training. You can find this through on-the-job programs in surgery centers or hospitals. Another option is to pursue a program with a post-bachelor’s perioperative certificate.

Once you are ready, you can seek certification as a CNORCFPN, or CNAMB from the Competency and Credentialing Institute (CCI). Eligibility requirements vary but generally include things like a current RN license and at least 2,000 hours of experience. Visit their website for more information.

Surgical Nurse Salary

How Much Do Surgical Nurses Make?

Although the BLS doesn’t report salary data specifically for Surgical Nurses, we can reference data for Registered Nurses (RNs) to provide a general understanding of the average salaries. In 2022, the average annual wage for Registered Nurses was approximately $89,000 per year.

Salaries for Surgical Nurses can vary significantly based on the employer, experience, and location. Areas with a higher cost of living or in-demand healthcare facilities may offer higher pay to attract nurses. Experience also plays a crucial role in determining a Surgical Nurse’s pay.

Masked woman standing beside a surgical team

Surgical Nurse: Job Outlook

What Is the Job Outlook for Surgical Nurses?

Although the BLS doesn’t report job outlook data for Surgical Nurses, we can refer to the projected job growth for Registered Nurses (RNs) to provide insights into the growing demand for Surgical Nurses. The BLS anticipates a 6% growth in employment for RNs from 2022 to 2032, faster than the average for all occupations. This is driven by an increased emphasis on preventive care and growing rates of chronic conditions among the aging population.

The aging population in the United States is contributing to a higher demand for healthcare services. As more individuals require medical care, the need for healthcare professionals continues to rise. Rural and underserved areas often face healthcare staff shortages. Seasonal fluctuations and unexpected events like the COVID-19 pandemic require a surge in healthcare staffing.

Your Journey into Nursing Starts Here

In summary, this article sheds light on the vital career path of a Surgical Nurse. This profession is in high demand due to factors like an aging population and the nursing shortage crisis. Surgical Nurses deliver safe and effective perioperative care. Not only do they help improve patient outcomes, but they strive to create better surgical experiences and boost the health of their community.

Prospective Surgical Nurses are encouraged to pursue the necessary education, gain experience, and seek opportunities for professional growth in the dynamic field of Surgical Nursing. If you follow this path, you can find a rewarding career that makes a positive impact on healthcare delivery and patient outcomes in the operating room.

Interested in nursing education? Unitek College offers tailored programs to help you transition into the healthcare field and become a nurse in a shorter duration. Start by checking out the LVN to BSN Advanced Placement Option for the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. Our programs and pathways are designed to equip you with the skills and knowledge needed for a successful nursing career.

Join us today!