How to be an operating room nurse

Are you passionate about healthcare and looking for a challenging and rewarding career? If so, becoming an operating room (OR) nurse may be the perfect fit for you.

Operating room nurses are vital in surgical teams, ensuring patient safety and providing top-notch patient care.

This article will guide you to becoming an OR nurse, explore the necessary skills and qualifications, and address frequently asked questions.

Obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Degree

The first step towards becoming an OR nurse is to earn a BSN degree. Take courses such as anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and medical-surgical nursing to develop a solid foundation in nursing practice.

During your BSN program, seek clinical placements in the operating room to gain exposure and knowledge about OR nursing.

Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam

After completing your BSN program, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).

This exam tests your knowledge and competency as an entry-level nurse.

Passing this exam will enable you to become a registered nurse (RN) and advance your career.

Gain Experience in Nursing

Building a strong foundation in general nursing practice is essential before specializing in the operating room.

Begin your nursing career in medical-surgical units or critical care areas to develop your assessment and critical thinking skills.

This experience will give you a better understanding of patient needs and the complexities of interdisciplinary care.

Pursue Specialized Training and Courses

Once you have gained some nursing experience, seek opportunities to enhance your OR nursing skills.

Many hospitals and healthcare facilities offer OR internships or training programs, which can provide you with comprehensive knowledge specific to the operating room environment.

These programs often include didactic sessions, hands-on practice, and mentorship from expert OR nurses.

Obtain Certification as an OR Nurse

While certification is not mandatory, it strengthens your credentials and demonstrates your commitment to the field.

The Competency and Credentialing Institute (CCI) offers the Certified Perioperative Nurse (CNOR) credential, demonstrating your perioperative nursing proficiency and knowledge.

To qualify for this certification, you must have at least two years of perioperative nursing experience and pass a rigorous exam.

Skills and Qualifications

To excel as an OR nurse, it’s important to possess key skills and qualifications. You’ll need to have great communication skills to work collaboratively with the surgical team, patients, and their families.

It’s also important to have strong critical thinking and problem-solving abilities to handle any unforeseeable situations that may arise during surgery.

Additionally, paying close attention to detail is essential as it’s your responsibility to ensure patient safety, sterilize surgical instruments properly, and maintain a sterile environment.


How stressful is being an OR nurse?

Operating room nursing can be demanding and fast-paced, requiring you to handle multiple tasks simultaneously. Surgical emergencies and high-stress situations are not uncommon. However, with experience and excellent teamwork, managing stress becomes more manageable.

What are the working hours like for an OR nurse?

Operating room nurses typically work in shifts, including evenings, nights, weekends, and holidays. Surgical cases can be unpredictable, and the OR staff must be available whenever surgeries are scheduled.

How long does it take to become an OR nurse?

The timeline to become an OR nurse depends on several factors. It generally takes four years to complete a BSN program, pass the NCLEX-RN exam, gain nursing experience, and complete specialized training or internships. Overall, it can take approximately 5-7 years to become an OR nurse.

Can I specialize in a specific type of surgery as an OR nurse?

OR nurses generally gain expertise in varied surgical procedures over time. However, some nurses specialize in a specific surgical subspecialty, such as cardiac surgery, neurosurgery, or orthopedic surgery. Specializing usually requires additional training and experience.


Operating room nurses (OR nurses) are vital in caring for patients undergoing surgery.

They are responsible for ensuring that patients are safe and comfortable throughout the surgical process, and they provide critical assistance to surgeons and other healthcare professionals.

A career as an OR nurse can be both stimulating and gratifying. You will have the opportunity to work with cutting-edge technology and procedures, and you will be able to make a real difference in the lives of patients.

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