In school, nursing students receive little to practically no exposure to the OR—a few days observing surgeries squeezed in the middle of a med-surg clinical is typically all you get. But registered nurses working in the OR (known as circulators) experience many advantages that a standard floor nursing job just can’t offer.
So, what are the benefits of an OR job?
1. The hours. While many hospitals offer various shifts in the operating room, the standard OR nurse works the 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift. Since most hospitals keep their OR staff to a minimum on nights, weekends and holidays, you are almost guaranteed a day shift (perfect if you’re not a night owl or don’t want to deal with rotating schedules!).
2. Opportunities to make extra money. Most operating rooms require nurses to take a set amount of call each month. When you’re on call, you’re expected to return to the hospital any time the off-shift crew needs extra hands. Most hospitals pay modest hourly rates for every hour you’re on call and time and a half for the hours you work if you’re called in…which translates to a lot more cash for you!
3. Say goodbye to working weekends and holidays! While hospital operating rooms have to stay at least minimally staffed at all times, there also are outpatient surgery or procedure centers that operate on set hours and are closed nights, weekends and holidays. The guarantee of never having to work another Thanksgiving or New Year’s Eve alone is worth consideration! Most outpatient surgery centers do not require call, either.
4. Unmatched learning experiences. As an operating room circulator, you have the opportunity to witness amazing things. Surgery can be fascinating, and as an OR nurse, you have a front-row seat. Nothing compares to the experience of witnessing a life literally being changed for the better through surgery!
5. No more monotony. As a circulator, you have the opportunity to work in several different specialties: neurology, orthopedics, otolaryngology, ophthalmology, urology…and the list goes on! Generally, OR nurses are offered the opportunity to specialize in one or two areas or to work in all.
Whether you’re looking for a better shift to spend more time with your family, a job with more opportunity to learn and grow, a way to break up the humdrum routine of your current job or a job that offers high-adrenaline opportunities that keep your lifesaving skills sharp, the operating room has it all. And with so many different types of surgical facilities, you can practically tailor the perfect career to meet your and your family’s needs. Don’t be too quick to dismiss a position in the OR in your career search; it may surprise you and turn out to be exactly what you’re looking for!
Brittany Holland has been a registered nurse circulator for five years. Four years were spent working in the operating room at Arkansas Children’s Hospital—one of the top children’s hospitals in the U.S.—where she specialized in otolaryngology and ophthalmology, and was also trained in safety and operation of lasers in the perioperative setting. For the last year, Holland has been working in an outpatient gastrointestinal procedure facility, where she works as a circulator as well as in the preop and recovery areas. You can read more of her writing on NurseTogether and Yahoo!