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How To Become A Surgical Nurse

If you love a challenge and thrive in a medical setting, you should consider a career in surgical nursing. Surgical nursing pays well and offers several opportunities for growth. In the following guide, we'll tell you how to become a surgical nurse and highlight the duties, roles, and opportunities that make this specialty unique.

What Do Surgical Nurses Do?

Also known as perioperative nurses and operating room nurses, surgical nurses are registered nurses (RNs) that work in hospital surgical departments, as well as clinics, physician offices, and ambulatory surgery centers.

The word "perioperative" means "around operations" as surgical nurses work before, during, and after operations, performing a range of duties in the process.

Surgical nurses assist surgeons in the operating room and can work in the following roles:

  • Circulating nurses deal with overall nursing care, ensuring equipment and supplies are prepared and personnel are ready.
  • Pre-op nurses prepare the patient for surgery by verifying paperwork, checking their health history, preparing IVs, and providing guidelines and emotional support as needed.
  • Post-Op nurses are also known as post anesthesia care unit (PACU) nurses. They provide patient care after a surgical procedure, checking for complications and making sure the patients recover properly.
  • RN First Assistants (RNFAs) help the surgeon with suturing, wound exposure, and bleeding.
  • Scrub nurses are on hand to grab essential instruments needed during an operation.
  • Operating room directors assume more of a management role, monitoring care, applying assessments, and ensuring that everything runs smoothly.

How to Become a Surgical Nurse

So, you've decided to become a surgical what?

Follow the steps below to start your journey in this lucrative and fulfilling specialty.

Start Your Nursing Degree

To start your career as a surgical nurse, you must first become a registered nurse (RN).

You can choose to complete an associate's degree in nursing or a bachelor's degree in nursing, taking anywhere from 2 to 4 years to complete.

Pass the NCLEX Exam to Become a Registered Nurse

After graduating from nursing school, you must complete the RN licensing exam, known as the National Council Licensure Examination or "NCLEX". This exam is available across the United States.

Get More Experience

After completing the NCLEX RN exam, you must train for a year. This is an essential component for surgical nurses who want to work in pre-op, intra-op, and post-op care.

Your experience and training will prepare you for working in a hospital and teach you about anesthesia, patient care and safety, equipment use, and more.

Acquire Certification

There are three certifications available for surgical nurses and these will greatly improve your chances of securing a high-paying position.

Surgical nursing certifications include:

  • CNOR : Completing the CNOR means that you have met the standards required of surgical nurses dealing with patients before, during, and after surgical procedures. To qualify for this certification, you must have a registered nursing license, have completed at least 2,400 hours of surgical nursing experience, and be currently employed as a surgical nurse.
  • Certified Ambulatory Surgery Nurse (CNAMB): A certification available to nurses working in ambulatory surgery centers. It costs $350 and spans 200 multiple-choice questions.
  • Certified Foundational Perioperative Nurse (CFPN): A two-year certification available to part-time or full-time registered nurses working in the field of surgical nursing.

Begin Your Career as a Surgical Nurse!

Once you complete the above steps, you're ready to start your career in medical surgical nursing!

You'll spend your days assisting surgeons, saving lives, and supporting patients and their family members. There are many areas of medical surgical nursing that you can focus on, so once you get your foot in the door, start thinking about where you want your nursing career to go.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Surgical Nurse?

Becoming a surgical nurse could take anywhere from 2 to 5 years. It all depends on where you are with your studies and whether you are studying full-time or part-time.

How Can Surgical Nurses Make More Money?

You can earn more money as a surgical nurse by advancing your education and acquiring additional certifications. These certifications include the Certified Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse (CMSRN) and Certified Registered Nurse First Assistant (CRNFA).

You could also consider relocating to states like California, Oregon, Maryland, and Hawaii, where the surgical nurse salary is much higher than the national average.

What Makes a Good Perioperative Nurse?

Perioperative nursing requires a calm head under pressure and the ability to think quickly and critically. It's a fast-paced, high-stress, and highly demanding environment. You must be able to work well in a team and will need to have the stamina to keep going through long and tiring operations.

Is Surgical Nursing Difficult?

All nursing specialties are difficult and surgical nursing is no exception.

Perioperative nurses have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders and are required to work long hours in a very demanding role. Whether you're a scrub nurse assisting with invasive procedures or a pre-op nurse preparing the patient, this nursing specialty is far from easy.

find nursing schools near you

find nursing schools near you