Options in Nursing: Working as a Surgical Nurse

by Howard Gerber on January 29, 2015

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surgical-nurse-career-pathsThere are many options in nursing if you are interested in treating a wide variety of patients. For instance, working in surgery is a specialty that can be further divided into sub specialties. Working as a surgical nurse can be a challenging and exciting nursing career.

One thing nursing students may not be aware of is that there are different nursing jobs in the operating room. Below are two different options for those who are interested in surgical nursing.

What is a Circulating Nurse?

Circulating nurses have an important role before, during, and after surgery. The role of a circulating starts prior to surgery. Nurses meet with patients before surgery starts to make sure all needed paperwork is completed. For example, circulating nurses may review consent forms with patients and answer any questions. They also document what takes place during the surgery. Since they do not have to stay in the sterile field during the surgery, circulating nurses may replenish supplies if needed. After surgery, circulating nurses make sure all surgical instruments are accounted for.

What is a Scrub Nurse?

Scrub nurses have a different role in the OR. Unlike circulating nurses, scrub nurses work in the sterile field. They may get the room ready for the procedure, assist the surgeon in putting on sterile equipment and organize the supplies required for the procedure.

Nurses may also prepare patients for the procedure once they arrive in the OR. This may involve shaving the patient, attaching monitors and positioning the patient for the surgery. During the operation, nurses may assist the surgeon by passing instruments or holding equipment.

Training and Qualifications for Surgical Nursing

In order to work in either type of capacity, the first step is graduating from an accredited registered nursing degree program. Both two and four-year nursing program are options to consider. Although nurses with an associate degree may be hired to work in surgery, many hospitals would rather hire registered nurses who have earned a bachelor’s degree.

After graduation and passing a state exam, nurses need to gain a few years of experience taking care of patients before working as a surgical nurse. Experience in areas, such as the recovery room and ICU may be helpful.

Some medical centers offer a training program periodically, for nurses who want to work in surgery. In other instances, nurses with at least a few years of experience may get hired and go through an orientation program.

Both scrub nurses and circulating nurses need to have certain skills in order to do well in this specialty. Nurses need to be team players. Operating room nurses work closely with surgeons and other medical professionals. Having strong interpersonal and communication skills is essential.

Details matter in the operating room, so scrub nurses and circulating nurses must be detail-oriented problem solvers. It is also helpful to have physical stamina. It is common for surgical procedures to be quite lengthy, which requires nurses to stand for several hours. Despite these challenges, a career in surgical nursing can be quite exciting.

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