What Surgical Nurses Do

NursingApril 04, 2018

Surgical nurses help surgeons during an operation and look after patients, before, during and after a surgery. To become a surgical nurse, you first must be a licensed registered nurse (RN), then go through a two-year peri-operative training program or get an advanced degree with a surgical nursing specialization.

Surgical nurses are expected to be very empathetic because they must deal with people in pain. They must be able to monitor a patient’s pain and manage it by administering appropriate pain relief. They are the backbone of every surgical team.

An operating room is a dynamic, complex, challenging environment. Some operating room nurses who have undergone highly specialized training might participate directly in surgery, but most surgical nurses fill other, well-defined roles.

The three primary roles are: scrub nurse, circulating nurse and RN first assistant. Scrub nurses prepare the operating room for the patient, set up the medical tools to be used and make sure the room is fully sterilized. They will wear sterile masks, gloves and gowns and pass instruments to the surgeon during a procedure, then prep the patient for recovery once the surgery has been completed.

A circulating nurse does pretty much what the name implies, though they perform their duties outside the operating room itself. They will inspect the surgical equipment, but most of what they do is to maintain a comfortable environment for the patient. This can include coordinating with other departments, such as x-rays, when needed and ensuring the patient and/or family have signed needed consent forms and address other concerns regarding a patient’s care.

The RN first assistant usually has undergone additional education and training to watch for surgical complications, monitor the patient’s vital signs, and alerts the surgeon should any issues arise. As first assistant, you could be called upon to administer CPR, control bleeding and apply bandages.

It takes a special kind of nurse to serve as a surgical nurse…and requires an RN, at a minimum. Fortis offers RN (associate degree) programs at several of its campuses across the United States. If becoming a registered nurse/surgical nurse is the healthcare career you want, check out our Nursing Programs page to find the campus nearest you with an RN program…then get started!