OR Nurse: In-Demand Specialty for Travel Nursing Jobs
There were 48 million surgeries performed in hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers in 2010 — a number that has only gone up in the last 10 years. Outpatient procedures, for example, are expected to grow to 144 million by 2023.
At the same time that the number of surgical procedures is expected to rise, the U.S. is anticipating a critical nursing shortage. OR nurses play a pivotal role in surgical procedures from ensuring patients are prepared for surgery to managing patient care throughout the procedure. Qualified OR nurses will find themselves in increasingly high demand, and healthcare facilities will likely turn to travel OR nurses in order to meet their patients’ surgical needs.
What is an OR Nurse?
OR nurses work in many different roles within the operating room. Those who work in Pre-Op collect vital signs and health histories, start IVs, and assess patients to ensure that they are stable for surgery. They also interact directly with the support network that has accompanied the patient to the hospital. OR nurses often work inside the operating room to coordinate patient care before, during and after surgery. OR nurses can also serve in the post-op area, receiving and caring for the patients immediately after their surgical procedure and monitoring them for complications.
Other job titles for OR nurses, include: Circulating Nurse, Scrub Nurse, Registered Nurse First Assistant, Perioperative Nurse, and Surgical Nurse.
OR nurses work long hours on all shifts and are often on their feet for extended periods of time. Their work involves functioning within the surgical team as well as with patients and their families, so they must have excellent communication skills. Nurses who choose the OR environment are generally problem solvers who are comfortable in high-stress conditions. They are also multitaskers who are confident in their skills and able to work collaboratively under the supervision of a surgeon.
OR Nurse Education Requirements, Certifications, and Professional Groups
OR nurses provide direct patient care in many different ways, and their job descriptions can vary based upon whether they are a Circulating Nurse, a Scrub Nurse, or a Registered Nurse First Assistant. Clinical experience and credentialing requirements vary too.
Most Perioperative/OR nurses:
- Are Registered Nurses who have earned their Bachelor of Science in Nursing. (RNs who hold an Associate’s Degree in nursing may also be eligible for OR Nurse positions, though an increasing number of hospitals ask that ADN-degreed nurses complete their BSN within a specified period of time.)
- Have two years of clinical experience as a professional nurse, either through an internship program or a traditional RN position after graduation.
- Earned certification through the Competency & Credentialing Institute (CCI), which administers all credentialing, nursing competency assessments, and education for the perioperative nursing community.
Not all hospitals require that OR nurses be credentialed but many are starting to desire it. In fact, the Association of Perioperative Registered Nurses (AORN) says that having the CNOR (Certified Nurse in the OR) credential opens doors to greater opportunities. In addition to the CNOR certification, CCI also offers certifications for different roles within the OR, including:
- CSSM for Bachelor’s-educated OR Nurse Managers
- CNS-CP for Master’s-educated Clinical Nurse Specialists
OR Nurse Salary and Job Growth Potential
OR nurses working in ambulatory surgery centers and physicians’ offices generally earn less than those who work in acute care hospitals. The highest paying OR nursing jobs were typically in specialty hospitals and university/academic medical centers earned more.
The survey also reported that most OR nurses earn additional compensation beyond their base salary in the form of overtime, shift differential, on-call compensation, and bonuses.
The average annual salary for OR nurses is $89,325.
The need for OR nurses is increasing — the median percentage of vacant full-time perioperative nursing positions expanded from 3% five years ago to 7.1 % in 2018.
This trend is expected to continue as is the increased number of surgeries being performed. This translates to more facilities seeking experienced, qualified OR nurses, which means increased opportunities and job growth potential for this nursing specialty.
Top Paying Cities for OR Nurses in 2021
According to ZipRecruiter.com, here are the best paying cities for case management nurses in 2021:
- San Francisco, CA: $109,655 per year
- Fremont, CA: $105,264 per year
- San Jose, CA: $102,821 per year
- Oakland, CA: $101,697 per year
- Tanaina, AK: $101,413 per year
The Pros and Cons of Being an OR Nurse
Pros of OR Nursing
- Being part of a cohesive team that makes a real and immediate difference in patients’ lives
- Opportunity to constantly learn new techniques and skills
- Direct, one-at-a-time patient care
- Respect of peers and community
Cons of OR Nursing
- Long hours and shifts, many of which are on-call
- Surgical complications can lead to patient deaths
- Management push for efficiency can lead to frustration with feeling rushed
- Intense, high-pressure environment
Travel Nursing as an OR Nurse
Being an OR nurse isn’t for everybody: The environment is demanding and so are the surgeons. But, for organized multitaskers who thrive on instant gratification, the operating room provides the opportunity to see immediate results from their contributions.
OR travel nurse skills generally translate seamlessly into new surgical environments, so it’s no surprise that OR travel nurses are often brought in to help ease staffing shortages and offer respite to overworked full-time staff.
In general, OR travel nurses receive higher hourly compensation than full-time staff nurses, but advantages go beyond the pay rate. Depending on the contract, travel nurses are also often eligible for non-taxable stipends, plus bonuses and travel reimbursement. OR travel nursing also can advance your nursing career by providing access to new surgical environments, professionals, and procedures.