Pros and Cons of Working as an OR Nurse

OR nurses walking with patient through hospital corridor
Written by
Jenna Elizabeth
December 11, 2023

Table of Contents

Pros and Cons of Working as an OR Nurse

Do you have an impeccable ability to stay calm under pressure? Can you offer compassion and empathy when managing pain and providing emotional support? An operating room nurse, or an OR nurse, plays one of the most vital roles in the healthcare industry. OR nurses collaborate with other medical professionals in the operating room, where most surgeries occur and where patients put their lives in the hands of skilled medical professionals. 

In addition, OR nurse jobs offer great pay and the opportunity to work with a dynamic team of health professionals. It takes confidence, integrity, and adaptability to work as an OR nurse. But is working as an OR nurse as appealing as some may believe? Whether you are already an OR nurse or interested in becoming one, here are the pros and cons of working in one of the most critical units within a hospital.

Pro: Varied Work Environment 

Working as an OR nurse guarantees one thing: Every day will be different. OR jobs allow nurses to expand their medical knowledge daily. So, what do nurses working in the OR do? Operating room nurses work alongside surgeons and medical staff, treating various conditions. Working in the operating room allows nurses to witness a multitude of simple to complex procedures. From hernia repairs and appendectomies to hip replacements and transplant surgeries, an OR nurse can expect stimulating and challenging days on shift. Since every day will be different, working in the OR provides endless opportunities for nurses to learn, challenge themselves, and build upon their existing nursing skills. 

OR nurse picking up per diem jobs via app
OR nurses who use an app to pick up jobs earn higher pay than average.

Pro: Competitive Pay

One of the many perks that come with OR nurse jobs is being part of a healthcare team that requires specialized skills. With that in mind, OR RN jobs pay well. So, how much do OR nurses make? According to the most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, RNs can expect to earn an average of $42.80 per hour or $89,010 per year. This rate, however, can be influenced by several factors, including what state you are practicing in as well as the type of industry you work in. For example, a registered nurse who works in the OR in a general medical and surgical hospital could earn up to $90,600 or $43.56 an hour.

Furthermore, education and years of experience can influence how much an OR nurse makes, trending potential earnings to over $100,000 per year. Finally, OR nurses can earn extra pay by picking up per diem shifts or PRN nursing jobs when facilities need coverage. 

Pro: Highly-Rewarding Work

If working under pressure while assisting doctors who provide life-saving surgeries to patients sounds like a dream, working as an OR nurse might be the perfect career for you. The truth is that OR nurses are the backbone of operating rooms. Surgical nurses often must communicate directly with family members while a patient is in surgery, which requires a knack for compassion and empathy. In addition, by offering specialized care before, during, and following procedures, OR nurses play a crucial role in successful patient outcomes. At the end of the day, watching a patient come out of surgery—and knowing you played a part in the success—is one of the most rewarding feelings. 

Con: High-Stress Environment

The operating room is usually a fast-paced, high-stress environment. It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that working as an OR nurse will entail a reasonable amount of time spent in tense situations. The unpredictability of working in the OR can cause intense pressure and may even feel overwhelming. As a result, OR nurses must have robust coping mechanisms and the capacity to act quickly and confidently without letting emotion interfere. The ability to remain calm and controlled in emotional situations may be challenging for some nurses.

Another characteristic of OR jobs is that nurses typically spend a grueling amount of hours on their feet. For instance, many operating rooms require constant staffing, and some are open around the clock, which means that even when an OR nurse clocks out, they may still be “on call.” One way an OR nurse can avoid this is by picking up per diem 9 to 5 nursing jobs and customizing OR shifts to their lifestyle—especially if they are parents. PRN nurses who pick up shifts with Nursa have no obligation to be on call; their responsibilities end when their shift ends. In any case, working an OR shift will always involve some stress and strain, but as an OR nurse, you most likely enjoy a challenge.

Con: Mentally Demanding 

The reality is that working as an OR nurse, you will have to deal with unexpected complications that arise during surgeries, and yes—at times—you may even have to witness patients facing life-and-death situations. These potential complications require an OR nurse to practice adaptive coping mechanisms when a patient is in pain or dies during an OR shift. Being an OR nurse, therefore, calls for a great deal of self-compassion and the ability to remind yourself that even if the outcome of surgery was not “successful,” you still did your best to make a positive difference in the patient’s life. While it can be emotionally and mentally demanding, a surgical nurse has to be resilient to work in and experience these types of situations. 

OR nurse standing outside of hospital after per diem shift
Many OR RNs enjoy being able to pick up 9 to 5 nursing jobs.

Why Work as an Operating Room Nurse? 

Choosing an OR nursing specialty depends on your personality, skills, and preferences. If you thrive in a fast-paced, high-pressure, and challenging work environment, then working as an OR nurse may be your dream job. If you are already working as an OR nurse, we salute you; it’s no easy task, but the world needs more OR nurses. 

Since registered nurse jobs in the OR are abundant, you can start looking for a rewarding career in OR nursing today. Again, remember that if 9-to-5 nursing jobs appeal to you, then per diem OR shifts can provide flexible scheduling and competitive pay rates. If you find fulfillment by helping those in need, you’re in luck. Connect to a facility needing OR nurses and start working right away.

Jenna Elizabeth
Blog published on:
December 11, 2023

Meet Jenna, a contributing copywriter at Nursa who writes about healthcare news and updates, empathy and compassion for nurses, how to show staff appreciation and increase retention, and guides that help nurses navigate career pathways.

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