There are many types of nursing that you can pursue, but if you’re looking for something with more drama and suspense, then you might want to consider OR nursing.
Okay, so it won’t be like an episode of Grey’s Anatomy or anything like that, but there are definitely differences between being an operating room nurse and being a registered nurse at some other unit in the hospital.
If you’ve been thinking that maybe OR nursing is for you, then how about taking a look at some of the most blatant pros and cons of the job. From scheduling to salary, stresses and prestige, there is a lot to consider.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, operating room nursing jobs are expected to increase 16% through 2024 (source).
This nursing position is in demand, but it takes a certain person to truly excel at it.
Think about your ability to work under pressure, handle emotionally trying circumstances, and oversee various tasks and colleagues simultaneously.
If you’re still nodding your head that you want to go into OR nursing, read on to see the top advantages and disadvantages of operating room nursing.
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Pros of OR Nursing
Here are the advantages of operating room nursing.
#1: You’re at the Center of the Action
While the patient will be the center of attention (and care), as an OR nurse, you are right there in the thick of things, and in some cases, you help to run the show.
A surgery requires everyone to be on the same page, for communication to be thorough, yet prompt, and for all supplies and equipment to be clean and ready.
Getting these elements ready for the operation will fall on you as the OR nurse. Once the procedure gets underway, your duties don’t stop there.
You need to be monitoring the patient the entire time, ensuring that their vitals and heart rate are normal and holding steady. You will also keep everyone involved in the operation on the same page, communicating effectively and with accuracy.
For those who enjoy being in the middle of the action, this is a job that is exhilarating and can increase your zest for life. Some people just get a rush out of contributing to such an important task.
#2: You’re Part of a Higher-Salaried Team
Lots of people look up to OR nurses, and these medical professionals get to be on a care team of physicians, anesthesiologists, surgeons, and others.
Working as part of a collective group, it can feel downright rewarding to be contributing to someone’s health and wellbeing.
On top of that, an OR nurse usually makes significantly more money than RNs. For instance, the average salary for a registered nurse is around $68,000.
In contrast, the average salary for an OR nurse is about $76,000 (source). Of course, these are only median figures, so depending on your experience and education, as well as any additional certificates, you could earn even more.
On top of that, you have the prestige of being an OR nurse, something that a lot of people can look up to and respect.
#3: You Typically See One Patient at a Time
One of the great advantages of being a nurse in the operating room is that you’re most likely only seeing one patient at a time.
Surgeons don’t perform multiple operations at once, so an OR nurse can focus on just that one person and dedicate all of their energy to keeping that individual safe and stable.
Seeing one patient at a time may also cut down on mistakes you normally seen when nurses are having to juggle care for multiple patients.
For example, take an ER nurse who is working in the emergency department, these nurses need to check up on a handful of patients, as well as document their case, symptoms, medications, and next steps.
Keeping track of all of this information can be quite challenging, but at least in the operating room, you are centered on one individual and that’s it.
Cons of OR Nursing
Here are the disadvantages of operating room nursing.
#1: The Stress Is Intense
As they say, with great power comes great responsibility, and all of those job duties can definitely cause a lot of stress.
As an operating room nurse, it will be up to you (and the surgical team) to ensure that the patient is well cared for throughout the duration of their procedure.
This includes evaluating their current condition, assessing and understanding their diagnosis, planning for their care, and intervening or participating in other procedures as necessary.
It can be a lot for one person, which is why OR nurses are often under loads of stress and performance pressure.
The need to be efficient, yet precise, can be a daunting burden for lots of people. It’s no wonder that nurses are some of the most burnt-out professionals across all industries.
The emotional turmoil of dealing with sick or fatally injured patients, as well as the physical demands of working those long shifts, can really add up.
It’s best to understand what you’re getting into before you decide to jump right into this career path.
#2: Your Schedule Might Have Less Wiggle Room
Yes, it is great that you are part of an elite group of nurses and medical professionals, and it’s awesome that you have all of these important job duties. Your schedule, however, might not be that great.
While it is true that OR nurses work shifts that are similar to other registered nurses, an OR nurse’s schedule can get a bit wonky. The thing is, timelines can get muddled when dealing with surgeries.
There might be complications with a procedure, causing the nurse to stay past their shift to finish their duties.
In addition, there are times when the operating room gets super busy – either due to an emergency or just operations falling behind – and an OR nurse can be called into the hospital, even on their day off.
It’s something that these nurses should be aware of, their services might be needed on days or at times when they are not scheduled to work.
#3: The Stakes Are High
In a doctor’s office, a nurse is typically checking vitals and maybe drawing some blood.
On the other hand, the operating room is an environment where there are high stakes, and sometimes it can be a matter of life or death.
Not to sound dramatic, but an OR nurse needs to make sure that the operating room is clean and sterile, the patient is constantly monitored during surgery, and the entire team is working as a cohesive unit.
There’s not exactly any room for error here. One small mistake could have dire consequences for the patient and their family.
If you’re not prepared to take on that kind of emotional burden, then becoming an OR nurse might not be for you. It definitely takes a certain personality to be able to excel in this kind of setting.
Operating room nurses are quick on their feet, they follow directions and can give orders, and they are able to separate themselves from the emotions in the room.
It’s a tall order, but that’s why they tend to make more money than other RNs and why they consider their job to be highly rewarding.
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