Five Skills You Need to Be an Operating Room Nurse


Healthcare practitioners are constantly racing against time in hospitals to care for patients and ensure they are back on their feet soon. Managing a patient’s case requires teamwork, and doctors must work closely with nurses to accurately diagnose a patient. This teamwork is further defined in the operating room when nurses are integral in preparing the room to receive a patient. 

As an operating room nurse, you will be responsible for various tasks. It includes keeping the room sterile, confirming the patient knows what operation they signed up for, and communicating with a surgeon to prevent a mishap. Hence, how do you prepare yourself for this role as a nurse? Being an operating room nurse is a massive responsibility, and here are some skills you need to have to align yourself with this position:

As an operating room nurse, you are directly responsible for assisting surgeons and ensuring the operating room (OR) is stocked with all the proper surgical equipment. Likewise, you will also need to monitor other nurses and keep tabs on the cleanliness of the OR to save the patient from getting exposed to microorganisms like bacteria. 

Given the technicality of the job, you need the right credentials. For this reason, it is highly recommended that you pursue an advanced degree after your bachelor’s so you have the necessary experience and clinical knowledge to be an OR nurse. Hence, as soon as you finish your BSN or ADN qualification, get a master’s degree. 

When you reach this point, consider enrolling in one of the post masters MSN certificate programs that makes you a skillful OR nurse. The more you learn, acquire advanced knowledge, and develop advanced skills, the better you will be at your job. 

  • Enhance Your Communication Skills

Your work is highly dependent on the way you communicate. You need to be able to talk to a surgeon and ensure they know possible obstacles they may face along the way. Your nursing team also depends on you, so make sure you clearly instruct them on what to do, use the correct medical terms and ask them to repeat the information you provided them. It helps you confirm that your nursing team is on the same page, and if there are any ambiguities, they are sorted before you head to the OR. 

However, your work doesn’t end here. Your patients need you too. Going for surgery is an overwhelming experience. Your patient may feel scared, unsure, and worried about the outcome. Take the time to talk to them and provide your patients with a safe space to share their thoughts. Don’t try to sugarcoat the procedure; instead, honestly tell the patient what they should expect empathetically and compassionately. Your kind words can give them hope, which they might need, especially when they feel vulnerable. Reassure your patients that they are in capable hands, and anytime they feel afraid, be there to console them. 

  • Know How to Manage Stress

Surgeries can be a stressful procedure to witness. A surgeon has minimal room to make mistakes and often can’t risk second guessing themselves as they attempt to work on the patient. As a result, it’s not unusual for the atmosphere to get heated, and the surgeon may crack under pressure. More often than not, OR nurses end up getting scolded the most. There will be days when the surgeon may be uncooperative, expect you to take accountability for tasks you didn’t do, and pin the blame on you. 

Likewise, there will be days when you may have too much on your plate, and you may struggle to keep it all together. In such cases, you must learn how to manage stress better. There is no denying that working in the healthcare sector can be challenging, but with suitable coping mechanisms, you can manage your stress without letting it consume you. Finding a coping mechanism requires slight work. You can try simple techniques like taking deep breaths, taking time to process your thoughts, and taking a short walk outside to calm your nerves. 

Some nurses manage stress better by talking to others, so if you have colleagues you can trust, take them into confidence and speak your heart instead of bottling it up. If you cannot manage stress, there’s no harm in talking to a therapist and seeking professional help.

  • Always Be Alert

You need to be vigilant at all times in the operating room. It is because while the surgeon and their team are focused on the patient, you must ensure everything else contributing to this surgery is running smoothly. For instance, you must ensure that the OR is sterile. It means if you notice any biohazard or health violation, like a nurse who didn’t scrub in properly, it falls on you to deal with the situation without compromising the integrity of the surgery room. 

Furthermore, if the supplies seem incomplete or there is a typo on the list, make sure you make the necessary corrections before the surgery commences. Inform the surgeon immediately if you notice subtle drops in the patient’s well-being during the surgery. Staying alert saves lives. Going the extra mile for your patients keeps them safe from life and death. While it may require additional work, become proactive about upholding the standards of a clean and neat operating room. 

  • Excellent With Time

You must be excellent at managing your time as an operating room nurse. You cannot afford minute delays since it takes a few minutes before a patient’s condition turns critical. Ensure you convey what the surgical team needs to do on time. You will also need to ensure that the equipment reaches the OR long before the surgery starts, and once the procedure starts, you must keep one eye on the time. It allows the surgeon to realize how well they performed on the surgery and if they can complete the procedure according to the set timeline. 

Final Thoughts

Becoming an OR nurse is an achievement. But working in this crucial position entails dedication and commitment to your field. As an OR nurse, you’re solely responsible for ensuring patients are prepared and ready for surgery. Simultaneously, you must confirm that the operating room is clean. Hence, your job requires you to be quick on your feet, establish a good relationship with surgeons and hone specific skills like communication and time management which keep you on top of your field. So if you’re ready to handle the pressure and do justice to your work, steadily steer your career toward becoming an OR nurse.


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