Why Be an Operating Room Nurse (Pros & Cons)?

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One question I get a lot as an operating room nurse is why? Operating room nursing can be a big change from the bedside. Although it’s very different, it can be very beneficial for a lot of nurses.

Today I’ll be going over my top reasons why you should be an operating room nurse. Additionally, I’ll try to help give nursing students a good perspective on what operating room nurses do and how they can impact a patient’s surgical experience.

What are the Pros and Cons of Being an Operating Room Nurse?


Operating room nursing can be challenging. It is very different from most things you’ll learn in nursing school. However, it can also be very rewarding.

When it comes to the question of “why be an operating room nurse“, you’ll have to consider the pros and cons and how they affect your own life.

My pros and cons of being an operating room nurse aren’t black and white. They can be looked at on both sides of the coin, so you’ll have to decide for yourself which are which for you!

1. The Schedule

One of the best parts of working in the operating room is the schedule. Most nurses will work a more traditional 9-5 style schedule. You can expect shifts of 0700-1500, 0800-1600, and 0900-1700. Additionally, there might be longer shifts available where you work, such as 0700-1700.

Although many hospitals or surgery centers work on these schedules, there can be a few exceptions. For example, trauma hospitals will have people in-house and on-call 24 hours a day. This means that you might have to take rotating shifts overnight.

2. Patients Are Asleep

Most times in surgery patients are under general anesthesia or “asleep”. This means that you don’t really talk to your patients. You’ll most likely get to interview them prior to surgery, but while they’re under there isn’t much interaction.

For some this might be a pro, and others it might be a con. I’ll leave that up for you to decide. However, it is one of the many reasons why a lot of nurses come to the OR.

On the flip side of this, you can have very meaningful encounters with your patients through the day. You might only see 1 or 2 patients come through your OR, so you’ll have more time to make a meaningful moment in their day.

3. Nursing Skills/Medications

One of the biggest complaints in operating room nursing is the under utilization of nursing skills. While you might have to put in a Foley catheter every once in a while, or help anesthesia with an IV, you won’t really be practicing your skills.

In addition, you won’t be administering medications. There might be a rare chance that you’ll help anesthesia with something, but in most scenarios you won’t. Operating room nurses might grab medications for the case and pass them off to their scrub. But, again, you aren’t actually giving medications through IV’s or injections.

Again, this might be a pro to some, but a con to others. However, many nurses do end up adapting to the “OR life”.

4. Fast Pace

Contrary to popular belief the operating room is a very fast-paced environment. You might have moments that are a bit slower than others, but with increasing turnover requirements it can be difficult.

Coming from the ICU, this wasn’t super new to me. In the ICU, you’ll have moments of intensity and moments of boredom. This is very similar to the operating room.

However, there are a few caveats to this. For one, if you work at a surgery center that only does 15-minute ophthalmology cases, then you most likely won’t have the same experience. Or, if you work at a big cancer center that does 15-hour long free-flaps, then you might be on the opposite end.

Whichever way you want to look at it, operating room nursing can be a different pace than bedside. And, for some it can be a pro and others a con.

5. The Scrubs

One of the biggest perks (for me) of working in surgery or the operating room is the scrubs! For the first time ever, you don’t have to buy your own nursing scrubs.

All operating room personnel must wear hospital-approved scrubs. The reason for this is infection control. There have been instances where employees have washed their scrubs at home, and had bacteria transfer from their homes.

So, hospitals provide workers in surgical areas with scrubs. You’ll have to change every morning when you get into work, but in my opinion, it’s not that much of an inconvenience.

Should You Be an Operating Room Nurse?

Finally, why be an operating room nurse? In my opinion, if you combine all of the pro’s regarding being an operating room nurse, then you get an awesome job.

Working in surgery, for me, was always something that was on my radar. Surgery is one of the most unique environments in the entire world. You literally can see and be a part of the craziest things. You can literally watch someone’s cancer be cut out of their body in hours, see someone’s expression when they can hear again for the first time, or experience a fast-paced critical care situation.

Additionally, the job opportunities after working in the operating room are vast. You can go into management, advance your degree, or even work as a surgical sales representative. The possibilities are widened when surgery is involved because of the large amount of devices used.

Finally, to answer the question: the operating room isn’t for everyone, but for those who can brave the challenge it is absolutely worth it.

CHECK OUT  Operating Room Nurse Interview Questions

Full Time Nurse

Striving to help nurses and nursing students succeed.

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