Perioperative Nurse

What Is a Perioperative Nurse?

Perioperative nurses, sometimes referred to as surgical or operating room (OR) nurses, are registered nurses who work directly with patients who are undergoing operations or other invasive procedures. These nurses work closely alongside surgeons, nurse anesthetists, anesthesiologists, surgical technologists, and nurse practitioners to provide pre- and post-op education as well as preoperative, intraoperative, and postoperative care in the operating room, recovery room, and other locations within medical surgical units. Within the broad field of perioperative nursing, nurses can choose to focus on surgical sub-specialties like cardiac surgery, neurosurgery, oncology, urology, plastic or reconstructive, transplant, general and more. The following include some of the roles perioperative nurses may be assigned to:

  • Circulating nurse - supervises nursing care and ensures surgical rooms are safe, secure, and sterile
  • RN First Assistant - perform suture cuts, manage and monitor bleeding, and carry out other complex tasks.
  • Scrub Nurse - sterilizing tools and providing tools to surgeons as they require them throughout a procedure, assisting surgeon to perform simple tasks throughout surgery
  • Post-Surgery Recovery Nurse - provides immediate patient care post-surgery

What Are Some Perioperative (Surgical) Nurse Duties?

Some tasks and duties that are commonly carried out by perioperative (surgical) nurses are likely to include the following:

  • Help to assess, plan, implement, and evaluate the nursing care patients receive before, during, and after surgery
  • Help to educate surgical teams and doctors on the patient's medical history, diagnosis, and more
  • Assist team to coordinate patient care, monitor vitals, and to properly manage equipment before, during, and after the procedure
  • Act as a liaison between the patient, the patient's family, and the surgical team that is treating the patient
  • Teach patient and their loved ones how to properly care for themselves at home following a surgery or other invasive procedure
  • Help a patient to prepare physically, psychologically, and emotionally for surgery
  • Administer medication as needed

Where Do Perioperative (Surgical) Nurses Work?

Perioperative nurses care for patients receiving surgical procedures. Common workplace environments include:

  • Hospitals
  • Doctor's offices
  • Surgery centers

How to Become a Perioperative Nurse

Perioperative nursing requires the right mixture of education, clinical experience, and passion for the art of surgical care. Those interested in this pathway may opt to do their clinical training in a medical-surgical unit to get a feel for the department and role. Lastly, nurses will need to gain one of the certifications that most employers require perioperative nurses to have. Certifications must be acquired through the Competency and Credentialing Institute (CCI).

Step 1: Educational Requirements

To become a perioperative nurse, the following educational requirements must be met:

  • Earn an Associate's Degree in Nursing (ADN), Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), or in some cases a graduate degree in nursing (i.e. MSN, DNP, or Ph.D.)
  • Pass the NCLEX-RN prelicensure exam
  • Hold an unencumbered RN license

Do Perioperative Nurses Need an RN Degree?

Yes, a perioperative nurse must possess an active and unrestricted RN license in order to practice. Depending on the specific certification one chooses to pursue, perioperative nurses may need to possess a graduate degree along with a certain amount of experience in the field.

Step 2: Required Perioperative Nurse Certifications/Credentials

Individuals can acquire either the Certified Registered Nurse First Assistant (CRNFA) credential or the CNOR (not an acronym) certification through the Competency and Credentialing Institute (CCI).

In order to meet the qualifications to take the CNOR certification exam, you must:

  • Have completed an ADN or BSN program
  • Possess a current and unrestricted RN license
  • Be currently employed full or part-time in perioperative nursing clinical practice, research, education, or administration
  • Have completed no less than two years and 2,400 hours of experience in the field of perioperative nursing, with at least 1,200 hours in the operating room

The CNOR certification must be renewed every five years.

In order to meet the qualifications to take the Certified Registered Nurse First Assistant (CRNFA) certified exam, you must:

  • Have a bachelor's degree in any field
  • Hold a current and unencumbered RN license
  • Possess the CNOR certification or be an advanced practice nurse with a specialty certification
  • Proof of completion of the formal RNFA program that's on CCI's acceptable program list
  • Proof of completion of at least 2,000 hours of practice as an RNFA which includes patient care before, during, and after surgery. 500 of these hours will need to have been done in the two years prior to applying to the CRNFA certification exam. As many as 600 of the hours can be in pre and postoperative patient care, but at least 1,400 of the hours must be in the intraoperative practice.

Perioperative Nurse Jobs, Salary & Employment

In 2006, the CDC reported that approximately 53.3 million surgical and nonsurgical procedures were carried out in 34.7 million ambulatory surgery visits. Demand for perioperative nurses will inevitably continue since the care they provide is essential.

Job Description & Information

  • Essential Skills Needed - Excellent communication skills, adept technical ability, detail-oriented, able to stand on one's feet for long periods of time, flexible, work well in teams, strong critical thinking skills, able to perform well under stress within a fast paced environment, excellent interpersonal communication abilities, able to carry out multiple tasks simultaneously
  • Job Outlook - The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that job openings in the nursing field should grow by at least 16% between the years 2014 and 2024. Given the importance of the perioperative nursing specialty, it's not unreasonable to assume that that job openings in the field will grow at a similar rate

What Is the Average Salary of a Perioperative Nurse?

According to, the median annual salary for perioperative nurses is about $75,000. The exact figure that a perioperative nurse can expect to make will depend greatly on factors such as their geographical location, the amount of work experience they have, the organization employing them, their educational credentials, and more. Although similar factors will play into the exact contents of a perioperative nurse's employment benefits, most who are employed will receive medical, dental, vision, prescription insurance coverage, and retirement plans. In some cases, life insurance and other benefits may be available. Lastly, it's the norm for nurses across all specialties to receive some annual paid time off each year - usually two to four weeks.

How Much Do Perioperative Nurses Make per Year?

  • $50,000 – $89,000 annually

How Much Do Perioperative Nurses Make per Hour?

  • $33.95 average hourly wage

Perioperative Nurse Resources