The perioperative nurse, also known as the Operating Room Nurse, is responsible for providing care for patients before (preoperative), during (intraoperative) and after surgery (postoperative). More nursing students are choosing this career due to the uniqueness of this specialisation.

Working within a team and using critical thinking

As part of being a surgical team member, you serve a fundamental role in communicating and liasising with the surgical team, the patients and their family. With that, perioperative nurses work and collaborate with other surgical team members to ensure that the patient receives the best possible treatment and care.

The continuity of integrated care in perioperative nursing requires you to provide health education, and at home, postoperative care. In doing so, your patient’s level of independence towards his own care increases and reduces the length of his hospital stay.

In operative nursing, critical thinking and clinical judgment require you to anticipate the necessary information, evaluate the data, and make decisions about patient care. In the case of caring for perioperative patients, you need to integrate knowledge from anatomy and physiology, pathophysiology, and surgical stress response, as well as previous experiences in caring for surgical patients.

By doing so, you can apply the knowledge along with information gathered from patients as you make clinical decisions surrounding patient care. In utilising critical thinking attitudes in the operating room, it ensures that a plan of care is inclusive and incorporates principles for successful perioperative care, such as airway management, infection control, pain management and discharge planning.

Serve two functions in one unit

A perioperative nurse commonly serves two functions - as a circulating nurse and a scrub nurse. Responsibilities of circulating nurses include evaluating the patient’s preoperative assessment, implementing the intraoperative care intervention, and providing postoperative care.

During the surgical procedure, circulating nurses will keep the environment safe, monitor the sterile techniques, and provide non-sterile equipment to surgeons as well as additional supplies. Prior to the end of the procedure, they will count the instruments for verification and make a complete documentation of it.

For scrub nurses, their fundamental role is to maintain a sterile field during the surgical procedure, select instruments and supplies needed for the operation and hand them to the surgeon during the procedure. Recently, nurses’ role in perioperative nursing has become extended to RN First Assistant (RNFA) who is responsible in managing bleeding and wound sites, and suturing during the surgical procedure.

Employers always prioritise candidate who have previous work experience in this specialty area, even though this is not mandatory. Nurses who work in other clinical sites such as critical care, postanaesthesia care units or in the emergency department also are among the top considerations for employers to recruit.

In regards to the points above, one may find perioperative nursing to be an exciting nursing specialty, but another may think otherwise. Perioperative nurses indeed have a challenging role, thus, not all nurses will consider this position; however, nurses who love and are up to the challenge would find this to be a fulfilling career. MIMS

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Potter, P.A., & Perry, A.G. (2009). Fundamentals of Nursing: Care of Surgical Nursing. 8th ed. ELSEVIER.