Certified Operating Room Nurse Education Requirements and Career Info

Certified operating room nurses work in a fast-paced environment assisting surgeons during operations. They provide patient care during the pre-, intra- and postoperative stages. Programs are designed for registered nurses who want to specialize in perioperative nursing.

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Educational Requirements for Certified Operating Room Nurses

Certificate and degree programs in operating room nursing are often referred to as perioperative nursing. Programs are designed for registered nurses (RNs) interested in working in perioperative care, and they usually take about a year to complete and require an undergraduate degree in nursing. Additional preparation, such as critical care unit or emergency room experience, is encouraged for program admittance.


Perioperative nursing students receive lecture and clinical instruction in pre-, intra- and postoperative care. They learn about various aspects of operating room procedures, including disinfectant and sterilization, operating room safety, surgical tools, patient communication, anesthesia assessment and skin preparation. Clinical experience provides students with firsthand knowledge of general and specialty surgeries. Courses and clinics prepare operating room nurses to work with multiple surgical team members, such as surgeons and anesthesiologists.


After two years and 2,400 hours of perioperative nursing experience, professionals are eligible to take the voluntary certification exam to become certified operating room nurses (CNORs). A bachelor's degree is not required. The certification is good for five years and re-certification is available through a professional portfolio, contact hours or an exam. A CNOR has increased job potential since many employers prefer to hire certified professionals.

Career Information

Operating room nurses, also known as perioperative nurses, assist surgeons during operations, prepare patients for surgery and care for them afterwards. These nurses are responsible for a large amount of the communication and education of surgical patients and their families and make sure that the patient receives optimal care during and after their operation.

The sterilization of the surgical room is the responsibility of operating room nurses. During surgery, they may play a variety of roles. Circulating nurses take charge of the general nursing care and make sure the environment stays secure and relaxed, and scrub nurses select and handle the surgical tools used during the operation. Registered nurse first assistants require additional education and control bleeding, expose wounds and suture incisions under the surgeon's supervision.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment outlook for registered nurses was expected to increase 22% between 2008 and 2018. The growth was thought to happen more slowly in hospitals due to more outpatient procedures, and this is one of the environments where CNORs work. Professionals are also employed at ambulatory surgery units, physician's offices and clinics. The BLS reported in May 2008 that the median annual wages for registered nurses was $62,450.

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