Sorry, my posts haven’t been as regular. Second semester is quite a bit more demanding than first semester. However, I absolutely had to make sure I got this post in for anyone interested (or not interested for that matter) in the OR (Operating Room).

This will be a long so if you want to skip to good stuff.
Here’s a list of the order:
How to get OR exposure in nursing school
What it’s like in the OR
What to know for your first time in the OR
Resources if you want to be an OR RN/APRN

How to get OR exposure in nursing school

For my intermediate med-surg (med-surg 2) clinical rotation, we get floating opportunities to the OR, wound care, PACU, ED, cath lab, and endoscopy.

I only wanted to see if because of my absolute obsession with grey’s anatomy. I really had no interest at all of being any type of OR RN/APRN. I was lucky enough to get to get placed to float in the OR, which was absolutely life changing.(This just goes to show… BE OPEN-MINDED DURING NURSING SCHOOL! You get to a taste of so many different specialities!)

Interested in the OR? Find out which semester(s) have floating rotations in the OR. You should contact your student program manager, professor, or mentor. One, if not all, of the them can tell you. Every school is different on how they pick who gets to go to which rotations, but if you email your clinical instructor you will have a good chance of getting in the OR. As soon as I knew who to contact, I emailed her requesting to do OR for my floating rotation (including why will help your case).

What it’s like in the OR

AMAZING! It is a totally different atmosphere! As soon as you step in, you can smell the collaboration and passion in the air. People work in the OR because they WANT to be there. Therefore, you see people at a whole new level. They are constantly innovating, collaborating, and communicating. The OR is very much about team work. Everyone you work with has a purpose. That purpose is to make sure the surgery achieves its purpose and the patient has the best possible outcome.

It is absolute organized chaos. The equipment and schedule is extremely organized, yet the execution of such is absolute chaos. People are buzzing around completing whatever task it is they must complete. Surgeons are going from one OR to another trying to stay on time for each surgery. Nurses are preparing surgeries, preparing surgeons, finishing up surgeries, calling time-outs, etc. It is not a place I recommend if you cannot be flexible. While there is a general consensus of what must get done, everything varies on how. People have different preferences and unpredictable things come up during surgery. (This is purely based on my own experience. I’m sure not every OR is like this.)

Synergy is what fuels the OR – BKT

During my float in the OR I got to see,

  • a craniotomy
  • lumbar spinal fusion
  • hernia repair (via the Da Vinci)
  • total hip replacement
  • fractured clavicle repair
  • appendectomy
  • wound vac removal and suturing of abdomen

What to know for your first time in the OR

This might be the most important part of the whole post. I searched far and wide on google trying to prepare myself for what I might see. I wanted to be sure I make the most of my experience. Here is what you need to know (and not know):
  1. You don’t need to become an OR expert overnight. During this float, you will be OBSERVING! You can stop hyperventilating now.
  2. Know what you want to see! My goal since forever has been to see a brain. As soon as I met the charge nurse, I told her the top surgeries I wanted to see (Neuro, Cardio, Da Vinci-related). She did her best to make it happen (plot twist: I saw a brain!!!).
  3. Be observant! Stay clear from the surgical field AT ALL TIMES! If it is contaminated, everything must be re-sterilized… EVERYTHING!
  4. Wear a mask, hair cover, protective shoe covers,  and protective eye wear. If you leave the OR floor/area, make sure to take off everything and dispose it properly.
  5. Pay attention to surgeries that have constant imaging. If you see everyone else wearing the x-ray vest, you should be wearing an x-ray vest. Be sure to secure the thyroid protection part too!
  6. Be familiar with EKGs. It helps if you happen to be positioned near the anesthesiologist so you can have a better idea of how the patient is doing. This isn’t necessary though!
  7. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or move around to get a better view. As long as you’re not in the way and not near the surgical field, you have freedom to move around to get the best view. Some surgeons will even be kind enough to tell you where to be to get the best view! Don’t ask a surgeon a question while he is in the middle of a difficult procedure. While they are wrapping up is a great time ask to! Most of the one I observed actually asked me if I had any questions!
  8. Wear comfortable shoes and compression socks, if you have them! You will mostly be standing all day. My legs were killing me by the last one, but you can bet your sweet butt I wasn’t going to sit to miss out!
  9. Make sure to use the restroom BEFORE the surgery you want to see!
  10. EAT! Make sure you have a decent breakfast to last you through the day. You will have breaks just like normal nurses, but taking additional breaks might mean you will miss something!
  11. Stay hydrated! Make sure you having enough water to last throughout the day! The last thing you want is to faint in the OR!
  12. Don’t lock your knees! Be sure to have slightly bent knees and move around a little to keep circulation going! You don’t want to faint!


If you absoluelty loved it as much as I did, now is the time to start planning how to get back in the OR! You can be an RN and work as a circulating nurse, scrub nurse, charge nurse, first hand, etc. There are so many roles! Contrary to popular belief, NPs also have a  role in the OR. I am in an ELMSN-NP program and didn’t know NPs could work in the OR… THEY CAN!
  1. NETWORK! If they seem comfortable with it, ask for contact information for the nurse you worked with most during your OR float.
  2. Research! Ask whatever nurse you happened to be with most about the best way to become an OR nurse in their organization! They can give you the best pointers. There might be certain certifications they require, a certain route you should take (ex: med/surg->ICU->OR). They might have a special training program like Scripps does!
  3. Prepare! You will want to know labs, cardio, and pulmo, like the back of your hand. Also, pay special attention to the critical care class and preoperative chapters in your nursing program.
  4. Volunteer/Shadow! Find opportunities through your clinical instructor and anyone you networked with in the OR to get as much exposure as possible! In the OR, you learn most through experience!
  5. Ask soon as you can, get your CNOR cert. I isn’t always required, but it make you more marketable! More info here.
  6. Join the AORN! Again not required, but it helps! More info here.
  7. Be patient! Most hospitals require 1-2 years in an ICU or med/surg setting before they will hire you into the OR.