What is an Operating Room Assistant?

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An operating room assistant (ORA), is an unlicensed individual that assists during the everyday operations of surgery. They typically help turnover rooms, clean equipment, setup instrumentation, and help with room setup. OR assistants have a wide-range of tasks that help surgeries run smoothly and efficiently.

As an operating room nurse, you’ll quickly realize how important ORA’s are for everyday life in surgery. But, when I first started, I wasn’t quite sure exactly what they did or what they could do for that matter. Understanding what your fellow colleagues can do is important for delegating tasks.

So today, we’re going in-depth of what an operating room assistant is, how much they make (salary), and what do they do?

What Do Operating Room Assistant Do?

What do Operating Room Assistants (ORAs) do everyday? A lot of ORA’s will typically start off by helping to prepare the operating suites for the day.

This usually will involve setting up the rooms, moving around beds, bringing around case carts, and other various tasks. In addition, they might even help with positioning the patients or perform other skills.

OR assistants also help with room turnover. This includes cleaning up after a procedure, taking out the trash, taking dirty instruments to sterile processing, and helping anesthesia turnover.

Day-to-day activities will vary based on the individual hospital/surgery center. But, as an OR assistant, you can expect these basic responsibilities.

What is an OR Assistant’s Schedule?

Typically assistants in the operating room will have a standard 8 hour schedule of 0600-1400. Although you might see variances with 0700-1500 or 0800-1600. Additionally, there might be opportunities for longer shifts such as 10 or 12 hour.

ORA’s often don’t take call shifts and mostly work during a regular work week of Monday-Friday. The schedule is one of the most attractive things about operating room assisting. You should have a very standard schedule.

What is an Operating Room Assistant Salary?

Operating room assistants can expect to earn an average salary $40,000 per year (source). This equates to an hourly wage of around $20 per hour. Although, there most likely will be a lot of potential to earn more through overtime and bonuses.

Operating rooms are often short staffed, and can benefit from additional help. So, your opportunities to earn more money won’t be stifled.

Salaries or how much money you make will depend greatly on years of service. Typically hospitals will pay more for experience because they won’t need to train you. Efficiency is key in the operating room and having good assistants can make or break it.

Operating Room Assistant vs Surgical Tech

OR assistants differ greatly from Surgical Techs and Surgical Assistants (SA). This is mainly because SA’s help surgeons with the actual procedure. For example, they help surgeons make incisions, close incisions, place clamps, or retract tissues.

While ORA’s won’t help with the procedures directly (they won’t scrub in). As an ORA you are more involved with setup, equipment and processing versus performing the procedure.

How to Become an OR Assistant?

If you want to become an assistant in the operating room, then you typically don’t need any prior training. Because there are no certifications required, most institutions will train you on the job. Although, you will have to obtain your BLS (Basic Life Support) certification post-hire.

You’ll have to obtain your standard high-school education or GED, then possibly an associates degree. From there, you can start applying to different jobs and potentially earn a spot in an surgery center or hospital.

Most big hospitals will hire more frequently, but you might find a smaller hospital or surgery center as well.

While there might be a stiff learning curve when you start, becoming an ORA might be easier than you think. Many ORA’s love their job and stick with it for a long time. You can even move on to become a surgical assistant or anesthesia tech.

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Full Time Nurse

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