How To Become a Surgical Nurse

Surgical nursing is one of the toughest yet most rewarding of the nursing disciplines, requiring hard work, dedication and an extensive education. Read on to find out information on education and training required to become a surgical nurse.

Scope of work

The primary responsibility of a surgical nurse is to look after patients prior to, during and post any surgical procedure or operation. Prepping the patient prior to surgery involves cleaning and sterilizing the body part(s) where the surgery will be conducted, monitor and record a patient's vital statistics such as temperature, blood pressure, pulse, etc to make sure that the patient is ready for surgery. During the surgery, the job includes monitoring the patient's vitals, assisting the anesthesiologist and surgeon by handing out surgical instruments and bandaging the operated area once the surgery is complete. Post-operative care involves monitoring the patient's recovery and ensuring the surgeon's orders are followed.

Education, training&certification

With respect to educational qualifications, there are three important requirements:

  • Complete a Bachelor of Science - Nursing (BSN) degree from an accredited/approved school; alternatively you can complete an associate degree in nursing (AND) or a 3-year diploma from an approved hospital program;
  • Appear for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to obtain certification as a Registered Nurse (RN) and complete any state-specific requirements to begin working as an RN;
  • Once you've obtained an RN certificate, you need to gain work experience for at least two years, before you apply for a surgical nursing certificate.
  • Appear and complete the Operating Room Nurse Certification Examination (CNOR) which enables you to find work as a surgical nurse.
  • Certification needs to be renewed once in five years to continue working as a surgical nurse.
  • Within the field of surgical nursing, you can choose to specialize as a scrub nurse, a circulating nurse or as an RN First Assistant.

Further information on a career in surgical nursing and certification requirements, can be obtained from the Association of PeriOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) at, or from the Competency & Credentialing Institute (CCI) at Follow the instructions and resources mentioned in this article and you too can become a surgical nurse.


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