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Perioperative nurses take care of patients throughout the entire operative process, from admission and preoperative testing through the recovery period and discharge to home or a nursing unit. Nurses typically work in a hospital or ambulatory surgery clinic and may be assigned to a particular section of the operative suite or rotated through all of the different roles.
Before a patient has surgery, the nurse must verify that all of the requested preoperative testing was completed and ensure that all results were within the normal range. They must educate the patient about how to prepare for their procedure, what to expect that day, and postoperative care and management. The nurse will give the patient a specific time to arrive at the hospital and get them admitted and prepared for surgery.
Once in the operating room, the nurse will act either as the scrub nurse or as a circulator. The scrub nurse works directly with the surgeon and must be scrubbed and maintain sterility throughout the entire procedure. The circulator does not scrub but will manage the operating room environment by ensuring that the counts of surgical instruments and tools are accurate and that the sterile field has been maintained. They can also get additional instruments and testing results and will manage the needs of the sterile surgical team.
After the procedure is complete, the postoperative nurse watches the patient very carefully, monitoring the vital signs and other clinical indicators as often as every five minutes or so until the patient has stabilized. They will administer pain or anti-nausea medications and alert the surgical team if any complications arise.
Becoming a perioperative nurse can be a challenge. More often than not, prior surgical experience is necessary before one can get a position as a perioperative nurse. However, most new graduates don’t have perioperative experience, making it difficult for them to find a position. The Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) offers a training program for new nurses and can be a great way to get the required skills. The AORN is the professional organization that provides guidance, support and education for operative nurses, and even administers its own certification program. Click here to visit their website for additional information.