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What Is The Difference Between A Nurse And A Scrub Nurse?

What's the difference between a nurse and a scrub nurse?

Well, for one thing, a nurse is a broad category that covers many roles, duties, and workplaces while a scrub nurse is a very specific role. But there's more to it than that.

If you're considering becoming a scrub nurse, check out the following guide first.

What is a Scrub Nurse?

A scrub nurse is a surgical nurse who works closely with surgeons and surgical staff during operations. They can work in a variety of healthcare settings and play an important role in assisting surgeons during surgical procedures.

What Does a Scrub Nurse Do?

Scrub nurses work in the operating room and perform a variety of tasks to ensure a smooth operation, including:

  • Keep the operating room clean
  • Ensure the equipment and instruments are ready and available when needed
  • Report to the circulating nurse as needed
  • Stay on-call to assist with an emergency surgery
  • Communicate with surgeons throughout the procedure

Is a Scrub Nurse a Registered Nurse?

Scrub nurses are registered nurses. To be any kind of perioperative nurse, you must complete a nursing degree and then acquire your nursing license, a process that usually takes a few years from start to finish.

Scrub nurses also need work experience and many of them have several certifications. The more qualified and experienced you are, the more you'll earn, so it's important to take these additional steps.

What Certifications are Available For Scrub Nurses?

Scrub nurses can complete a number of certifications, including:

Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN)

This certification is offered by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) and teaches critical care techniques for treating adults in emergency settings.

Medical-Surgical Nursing Certification (MSNC)

An entry-level certification provided by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and targeted toward nurses who want to work in a surgical team.

Certified Perioperative Nurse (CNOR)

A certification that helps scrub nurses and other surgical nurses to prepare for the operating room, covering techniques in patient care and communication, as well as post-operative assistance. It is offered by the Competency and Credentialing Institute (CCI).

Where Do Scrub Nurses Work?

Scrub nurses typically work in hospital operating rooms but they are also employed in private practices, physician offices, labor departments, and ambulatory surgery centers.

They usually work 8 or 10-hour shifts 4 or 5 days a week. Their working hours will ultimately be determined by the surgeries scheduled during their shift.

What Skills Do Scrub Nurses Need?

Scrub nurses are experienced and knowledgeable medical professionals. They work in high-pressure and highly demanding environments and typically possess the following abilities:

They are Detail-Orientated

A scrub nurse must prepare the operating room and monitor vital signs, so it's important that they have an eye for detail.

They Can Remain Calm Under Pressure

Surgical procedures are tense and high-risk. Things can change in an instant and the entire surgical team must be ready to act when they do.

Scrub nurses work closely with the surgeon and are relied upon to keep their cool when things get a little heated.

They Work Well in a Team

Scrub nurses work as part of a surgical team and so they need to have good interpersonal skills. They must communicate with circulating nurses and other surgical nurses, as well as the surgeons themselves.

They Are Organized

A scrub nurse maintains the tools and prepares the surgical instruments. They make sure the surgeon has the tools they need to effectively perform their job.

What's the Difference Between An OR Nurse and a Scrub Nurse?

An OR (operating room) nurse is simply a nurse that works in the operating room, and it's a definition that includes scrub nurses.

Also known as surgical nurses, this category also covers pre-op and post-op nurses.

What's the Difference Between a Scrub Nurse and a Circulating Nurse?

Circulating nurses, like scrub nurses, are a key part of the surgical team and work in the operating room alongside surgeons.

The difference is that circulating nurses assume more of a complete role, working with all of the surgical nurses and surgeons to sanitize the operating room, assess the patient, and make sure everyone is ready.

Circulating nurses sanitize the operating room and keep it sterile throughout the operation. They typically work in hospitals and like scrub nurses, they are qualified and certified registered nurses, usually with a bachelor's degree.

Some of the job responsibilities of circulating nurse include:

  • Review assessments of the patient before the operation
  • Obtain medical equipment in sterile packaging
  • Assist all surgical staff as needed, including scrub nurses
  • Make notes about the surgical procedure and the patient's health
  • Determine how the patient should be cared for

Although the exact duties of scrub nurses and circulating nurses vary, the main difference is that scrub nurses provide hands-on assistance during the surgery while circulating nurses focus more on the environment.

Both types of nurses work in the operating room and the median salary is very similar.

Summary: Scrub Nurse vs Circulating Nurse and Other Nurses

All surgical nurses work in the operating room and they all play an important role during life-saving surgical procedures. These nurses are qualified and certified and they can earn a very good wage, especially if they work at major hospitals and private practices in the country's most demanding cities.

To become a scrub nurse or circulating nurse, just complete a nursing degree, get your registered nursing license, acquire the necessary certifications, and then get some work experience. It's far from a quick and easy process, but it's one that will lead to a very rewarding job.

find nursing schools near you

find nursing schools near you