Subscribe to Notes on Nursing, our monthly news digest.
Nursing News HighlightsNurses Leading Innovation

Fast-Paced, Team-Based: The Exciting Possibilities of Perioperative Nursing

Is perioperative nursing for you? Perioperative or operating room (OR) nurses provide patient-focused care in a variety of settings and specialties, with ample opportunities for professional growth. Get the scoop on this fast-paced, team-based, and fulfilling specialty, and find out how health systems and nursing schools are working to strengthen the pipeline of new nurses entering this critical specialty.

Fast-Paced, Team-Based: The Exciting Possibilities of Perioperative Nursing

Is perioperative nursing for you? Perioperative or operating room (OR) nurses provide patient-focused care in a variety of settings and specialties, with ample opportunities for professional growth. Get the scoop on this fast-paced, team-based, and fulfilling specialty, and find out how health systems and nursing schools are working to strengthen the pipeline of new nurses entering this critical specialty.
2023-11-07T17:40:55.929Z
Find your purpose in the operating room

There’s something unique about the patient advocacy that happens in an operating room.

No matter the setting or specialty, nurses are always fierce patient advocates, ensuring that patients’ health and safety are protected. But when patients are under anesthesia, it’s different.

“Everywhere else in the hospital, patient’s families can be there with them, but they cannot be in the operating room,” says Debbie Smith, Senior Clinical Manager at Association of periOperative Registered Nurses. “The biggest role we have is the role of the patient advocate.”

Surgical care team at Bon Secours Mercy Health
Source: Bon Secours Mercy Health

Perioperative or operating room (OR) nurses provide hands-on patient care throughout a surgical experience – before, during and after a patient’s procedure. These nurses play an essential role in patient safety, and the need for perioperative nurses is expected to grow more than 12% by 2028.

In addition to providing high-quality, team-based, patient-centric care, working in a variety of settings and across various specialties, this dynamic, exciting and highly rewarding specialty has ample opportunities for professional growth.

Surgical care team at Bon Secours – St. Mary’s Hospital
Source: Bon Secours – St. Mary’s Hospital

However, until recently, many nursing students did not gain exposure to perioperative nursing as a specialty in nursing school. To raise awareness among nursing students and early-career nurses about the exciting career possibilities of perioperative nursing and to ensure readiness to practice, AORN has released a new perioperative nursing elective curriculum for nursing schools to assist RNs entering the perioperative field.

To actively and accurately demonstrate what perioperative nurses do and the environment that they work in, Johnson & Johnson has collaborated with the Association of PeriOperative Nurses and Bon Secours Mercy Health to produce a new perioperative nursing video. The intent is to increase awareness of and spark interest in the specialty, highlighting real perioperative nurses who share what it’s really like to work in the OR, why they love the specialty, and the benefits of becoming a perioperative nurse.

Surgical care team at Bon Secours Mercy Health
Source: Bon Secours Mercy Health

“Johnson & Johnson understands the need to generate awareness about this critical specialty and is proud to collaborate with the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) and Bon Secours Mercy Health to amplify this dynamic and high-demand profession,” said Lynda Benton, Senior Director, Global Community Impact, Johnson & Johnson. “OR nurses are essential to patient safety and access to quality care, and we are proud to share this inspiring look at the many possibilities of a career in perioperative nursing.”

More Exposure and Training Opportunities

While nursing programs vary, many nursing students experience limited exposure to the perioperative specialty in nursing school.

“You would typically get a day to observe, and some nurses never get to even do a rotation,” Smith said. “Once you get into the OR, you never want to leave. It's a really nice work environment, but nurses don’t know that until they get there.”

Surgical care team at Bon Secours – St. Mary’s Hospital
Source: Bon Secours – St. Mary’s Hospital

In 2021, AORN partnered with Chamberlain University to pilot new undergraduate education to broaden awareness of surgical nursing. Now available to all nursing schools, Introduction to Perioperative Nursing is an undergraduate course for nursing students and provides essential knowledge of operating practices throughout the continuum of care for surgical patients.

Health systems are also innovating to improve awareness and skills for nurses. AORN’s Periop 101: A Core Curriculum is used in health systems to successfully standardize onboarding for RNs entering the perioperative specialty. Further, many health systems offer additional perioperative training and residency programs onsite to set new nurses up for success in this vital role.

At Bon Secours Mercy Health, perioperative nurses leverage the AORN Periop 101 curriculum, as well as additional resources and tools from the association. The system also employs a training model called the tiered skills acquisition model, in which an orientee assumes increased responsibility gradually by advancing through skill tiers ranging from simple to complex.

“As you get to Level 5, it begins to broaden and build even more breadth and depth in clinical judgement, critical thinking, and interprofessional collaboration, for deeper, more advanced skills,” said Pam Hash, Chief Nursing Officer at Bon Secours Mercy Health and Vice President of Nursing Professional Practice, Education, and Research.

This framework has been particularly successful in onboarding new nurses, Hash said, especially paired with ‘Preceptor Academy’ courses that strengthen on-the-job instruction, as well as skill development days, which ensure hands-on experience with procedures or processes that new nurses may have only studied.

Care nurses at Bon Secours Mercy Health
Source: Bon Secours Mercy Health

These types of programs are becoming more standardized as health systems and associations look to build a strong pipeline of perioperative nurses and ensure the highest quality surgical care.

“The operative space is limitless,” Hash said. “Every day, we’re getting more advanced, with greater technology. But despite the technologically advanced environment, we never forget that it’s human beings we care for, and I believe the nurse is the person who is most critical to keeping the humanity, the compassion, the caring and the understanding of the human lived experience of a surgical procedure.”

Click here to hear firsthand from the perioperative nurses at Bon Secours Mercy Health, and read on for more information about this exciting, important specialty.

Perioperative Nursing FAQs

What is Perioperative Nursing?

Perioperative nurses – also known as operating room nurses, OR nurses, and surgical nurses – help plan, coordinate, implement and evaluate treatment of surgical patients, including addressing the physical, psychological, and spiritual responses of the patient and working collaboratively with other surgical professionals.
Perioperative nurse preparing for surgery at Bon Secours Mercy Health
Source: Bon Secours Mercy Health

What Do Scrub Nurses and Circulating Nurses Do?

There are multiple roles within the specialty – scrub nurses are sterile, selecting and handling instruments and supplies used in surgery, working closely with the surgeon throughout the procedure. Circulating nurses manage the operating room environment and maintain a safe, comfortable space for the patient and care team, and advocate for the patient before, during and after surgery.

Where Do Perioperative Nurses Work?

Perioperative nurses work in surgical departments, day-surgery units, ambulator surgery centers and physician offices that perform invasive procedures. They work in general surgery, orthopedics, cardiothoracic, gynecology and obstetrics, pediatric surgery, plastic surgery, urology vascular surgery and more.
Circulating nurse at work during surgery at Bon Secours – St. Mary’s Hospital
Source: Bon Secours – St. Mary’s Hospital

Ready to learn more?

Click here to get even more perioperative nursing facts, like average salaries and steps toward the profession.

Find AORN nursing curriculum here:

Watch more perioperative nursing clips here and share on your social channels to build awareness of this exciting nursing specialty!

Latest from Johnson & Johnson Nursing