What Is Perioperative Nursing?

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A masked nurse in an operating room prepares an IV.Surgical procedures are essential for treating many medical conditions, but poor care can have severe consequences for patients. Complications during and after surgery can cause harm or lead to longer recovery times. Because of the risk of these complications, it is critical to have skilled professionals in place who are dedicated to making surgical procedures as safe and effective as possible.

From providing preoperative assessments to postoperative care, perioperative nurses are crucial throughout the surgical process. Their specialized knowledge can help to reduce costs, improve the patient experience, and lower the risk of adverse events. Those interested in taking on a surgical nursing role should understand what perioperative nursing is and how earning an advanced degree can prepare them.

What Does a Perioperative Nurse Do?

Perioperative nursing is a highly specialized field, and it differs in several ways from other nursing roles. Unlike nurses with more general responsibilities, perioperative nurses work solely in the operating room and are well-versed in surgical procedures, sterile techniques, and surgical instruments.

Perioperative nurses have numerous responsibilities throughout the surgical process. They help set up the operating room and ensure all necessary equipment and supplies are available. They help prepare the patient for surgery, including administering medication and starting IVs. They also monitor the patient’s vital signs and assist the surgical team as needed during surgery. They continue to monitor the patient’s condition and provide postoperative care, including managing pain and other symptoms and teaching patients how to care for themselves at home.

In addition to their clinical skills, what perioperative nurses do also requires a range of soft skills, such as critical thinking, decision-making, communication, and collaboration. In a high-stress setting, they must maintain composure and concentration while working closely with the surgical team to ensure optimal patient care.

How to Become a Perioperative Nurse

The first step in becoming a perioperative nurse is to earn an undergraduate nursing degree. Many employers prefer a bachelor’s degree because it provides a more comprehensive education that covers nursing theory, research, and evidence-based practice.

After earning a nursing degree, the next step is to prepare for and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). A passing score on this exam enables graduates to become RNs and, in turn, pursue a perioperative nursing specialization. To register for the NCLEX-RN exam, candidates must apply to their local nursing regulatory body for licensure and registration eligibility.

Candidates can apply for state licensure after passing the NCLEX-RN exam. State requirements vary but typically include having a nursing degree and passing the NCLEX-RN exam. Candidates should research their state’s nursing regulations and gain a license through their state nursing board before applying for jobs.

Work experience is another essential step toward becoming a perioperative nurse. Candidates should seek out roles that require them to collaborate with perioperative or other operating room nurses and surgeons. This experience can help candidates decide whether perioperative nursing is the right specialty for them.

Candidates can also enroll in a perioperative nursing certification program. These programs help nurses better understand operating room procedures and patient care, and can potentially improve their job prospects and boost their earnings. One such program is the Certified Perioperative Nurse (CNOR) program offered by the Competency and Credentialing Institute (CCI). This program requires two years of nursing experience, a valid RN license, and a current nursing position.

Opportunities for a Perioperative Nurse

Perioperative nurses are in high demand due to their specialized training. Additionally, a growing number of retirements has thinned the perioperative nursing ranks, a trend that has affected virtually every other nursing specialty and led to an overall shortage of nursing professionals.

Employment of nurse anesthetists, who share many of the same responsibilities as perioperative nurses, is projected to grow 12% over the next decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The 2020 National Nursing Workforce Survey, conducted by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing and the National Forum of State Nursing Workforce Centers, revealed that interest in perioperative nursing is growing, with 6.7% of respondents selecting it as their primary specialty — up from 5.8% in 2017 — making it the third most popular specialty among nurses.

Because perioperative nurses are vital to ensuring successful surgical outcomes, hospitals and surgical centers regularly seek qualified candidates to fill these positions. This demand creates opportunities and can lead to significant financial benefits for those interested in the field. According to 2023 data from the compensation website Payscale, the median annual salary for a perioperative nurse is $83,500. Salaries can vary significantly depending on education level, years of experience, and other factors. Nurse anesthetists, who are advanced practice nurses with at least a master’s degree, earned a median annual salary of $195,610 in 2021, the BLS reports.

Take Your Next Step in Nursing

Perioperative nurses are crucial to ensuring safe surgeries and optimal patient care. Their expertise and skill set can help minimize costs, reduce the risk of adverse events during and after surgical procedures, and improve overall patient outcomes.

As the demand for perioperative nurses rises, those looking to pursue a career in this field should consider the benefits of earning an advanced degree, such as the Regis College online BSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice program.

The program offers a flexible and accessible way to pursue your professional goals and acquire the skills and knowledge to excel in nursing. With the ability to complete the program in as few as 40 months and a 100% online course load, students don’t need to sacrifice their careers or disrupt their lives to pursue professional advancement.

Explore the program and find out how Regis College can launch your career and help you improve the lives of patients.

Recommended Readings

Promoting High-Value Care in the Nursing Field

What Is Health Equity, and Why Does It Matter?

Why Get a BSN to DNP Online?


Community Eye Health Journal, “The Importance of the Perioperative Nurse”

Coverys, “Surgery Risks: Through the Lens of Malpractice Claims”

Incredible Health, “What Is the NCLEX Exam?”

Indeed, “CNOR Certification: What It Is and How to Get Certified”

Indeed, “What Are the Pros and Cons of Being a Perioperative Nurse?”I

ndeed, “Perioperative Nursing: Definition, Duties and Career Path”

Journal of Nursing Regulation, “The 2020 National Nursing Workforce Survey

Payscale, Average Nurse Operating Room Hourly Pay

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners