What is a Circulating OR Nurse?

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What is a circulating OR nurse?

A circulating operating room nurse is a vital part of the surgical team. They are one of the non-sterile or “un-scrubbed” members in the room.

In this article, we’re going over all the basics of circulating nurses, and why we need them!

I have been working as an operating room nurse for almost 3 years now. When I started, I thought I knew what circulating nurses were, but I didn’t truly understand the whole picture.

RN’s have a lot of responsibilities in surgery, and they can often be overlooked. So, I wanted to straighten that out for other nurses, nursing students or event patients who are preparing for surgery.

What does a Circulating OR Nurse Do (Duties)?

As a circulating nurse, you are responsible anything not sterile during a surgical procedure. Additionally, you might have involvement in patient preparation or “waking up” portions of the procedure.

Intraprocedure Duties

Circulators can also help anesthesia with intubation or extubation. But, their primary focus will be during the procedure. This can range from helping the sterile personnel gown, to hooking up different equipment, to prepping the patient.

Additionally, you can expect to help transport patients, help monitor patients during sedation procedures, and legally document what happens in the operating room.

While you have a lot of responsibilities during the procedure. There are a lot of duties that you have before and after as well.

Preprocedure Duties

Before the procedure, usually the circulating RN will assist anesthesia providers with transporting the patient. If they don’t need to be transported then they might help attach monitoring equipment and apply oxygen.

After the patient is in the operating room, you will verify identifiers, and initiate a time out. Then, you might help assist the anesthesia provider with intubation.

Postprocedure Duties

After the procedure, the circulating nurse might help assist taking the patient to the PACU (post anesthesia care unit). Once in PACU, you can help attach the patient to the new monitoring equipment, and then give report (free report sheets) to the nurse taking over.

How Much Does a Circulating Nurse Make?

As a circulating nurse, you can expect to make anywhere from $79,000-128,000 per year (source). These numbers can vary due to call shifts, overtime, incentive pay, and travel nursing.

Circulating nurses will often have a lot of opportunities to make more money. Call shifts or incentive pay shifts are very easy ways to earn some cash.

Do You Take Call as a Circulating Nurse?

Yes, unless you work at a surgery center that doesn’t take call, then you will have to take call. Most call shifts are either weekend or weeknight call.

Circulating nurses are needed for most surgical procedures, and will need to be called in if there isn’t someone staffed.

Weekend call shifts usually work in 12 or 24-hour increments. While on-call it is expected that you are within a 30-60 minute range from the hospital (that will depend on your facility). And, for obvious reasons, you shouldn’t get too involved in any activities for an on-call day.

Overnight call works the same way, however some facilities might put you on automatic overtime if you are called in overnight.

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Full Time Nurse

Striving to help nurses and nursing students succeed.

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