Growing Career Options in Perioperative Nursing


or nurse jobsBy Jennifer Larson, contributor

Perioperative nursing is a rewarding specialty that is constantly evolving, making this an exciting time to be an operating room nurse.

Nurses who choose to become OR nurses can look forward to good job prospects and a stimulating career that challenges them to stay at the top of their game.

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A variety of OR nursing options

There are currently tons of options within the field of perioperative nursing, said Linda Groah, MSN, RN, CNOR, NEA-BC, FAAN, CEO and executive director of the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN).  

For instance, an OR nurse can opt for general surgery or a surgical specialty like orthopedics or neuro/spine.

“These and many other specialty areas enable lifelong skill-building opportunities that keep the work interesting and motivating,” said Groah. 

Perioperative nurses can also choose to work in preoperative, intraoperative and postoperative phases of surgery, and in a variety of settings. 

While many OR nurse jobs are in hospital surgery departments, opportunities in ambulatory surgery centers, clinics and physician’s offices continue to grow.

The requirements and education of an OR nurse 

Wondering how to become a perioperative nurse? 

If you’re a registered nurse, you’ve already started the journey. Every OR nurse begins his or her career by completing nursing school and becoming a registered nurse. After becoming an RN, you can pursue additional education and specialty training to gain expertise. 

Getting a specialty certification is one of the best ways to demonstrate your commitment to your ongoing education — to your employer and your patients. Certification shows that you’ve spent a lot of extra time and effort to learn more about the latest evidence-based research that will help you do your job better. 

Many perioperative nurses will want to consider pursuing the CNOR certification from the Competency and Credentialing Institute (CCI). AORN provides online preparation materials for the exam.

“I encourage nurses to take the CNOR exam as soon as they are eligible — two years after actively practicing as a perioperative nurse,” said Groah. “If they have been a student in AORN’s Periop 101, the six months in this course can be included in the requirement of two years.” 

Or you may choose to earn other certifications, such as the Certified Surgical Services Manager (CSSM) credential, Registered Nurse First Assistant (CRNFA) certification, or Certification in Infection Prevention and Control (CIC).  

You could also earn a master’s degree in nursing or another health-related field. 

According to the results of the 2016 AORN Salary and Compensation Survey published in the AORN Journal, the average perioperative staff nurse earned $69,100; those with a master’s degree earned nearly $5,000 more each year in base compensation.

Opportunities beyond the OR

Perioperative nurses are an integral part of the surgical team, and their ability to work on an interdisciplinary team can help them make a difference in patient outcomes.

An OR nurse could transition to a role as a team leader or in operating room management, helping to guild their facility’s ability to provide safe and effective surgical care, said Groah.

Their experience can also be useful beyond the OR. 

Well-educated operating room nurses can make excellent contributions to hospital or health system committees, or in professional organizations at the local or state level.

“On the national level, AORN provides numerous opportunities for perioperative nurses to engage in the development of policies and guidelines that affect patient and healthcare worker safety in operating rooms and ambulatory surgery centers across the country,” said Groah.

Employment prospects and new developments

Experts note that there’s an ongoing shortage of perioperative nurses, which bodes well for nurses currently looking for OR nursing jobs. 

The future prospects for employment in perioperative nursing look bright, as well. 

That’s partly because the surgical arena is always changing. 

“Surgical intervention – where it’s delivered and how – is always evolving, and thus providing perioperative nurses with new or expanded roles in the operating room,” said Groah.

Additionally, new healthcare challenges are always developing.

For example, the ongoing opioid crisis in the United States is an issue that hits close to the operating room, and one that perioperative nurses should continue to monitor, Groah added.

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