How to Become a Perioperative Nurse: Salary, Job Description, Requirements

Nurse working with doctorA perioperative nurse provides nursing care to patients before, during and after surgery. A nurse working in this role is sometimes referred to as an operating room nurse, OR nurse or surgical nurse. The perioperative nurse works closely with the surgical team to ensure the patient receives the best possible care. A perioperative nurse plans, implements and evaluates treatment of the surgical patient.

Perioperative nurses also work as liaisons between the surgical team and patient families. These nurses also work with patients and families after surgery to provide nursing care and offer instruction about postoperative care at home.

Table of Contents
How to Become a Perioperative Nurse
Education Requirements
Perioperative Nurse Job Description
Sample Job Description
Perioperative Nursing on YouTube
Personality Traits
Career Options
National Salary Snapshot
Perioperative Nurse Certification
Cost of Certification
Career Path
Professional Organizations
Relevant Publications
Related Careers

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide information specific to perioperative nurses but the BLS website does offer an overview of registered nurses who may work in the perioperative nurse role.

Level of Education Required Associate degree or Bachelor Degree in Nursing
Board Examinations needed NCLEX-RN, RN-BC
Average Salary $67,800
# of Jobs (2012) 2,712,000
Job Outlook (2012 to 2022) 19% growth

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Salary courtesy of the Association of Perioperative Registered Nurses

How to become a perioperative nurse

To work with surgical patients as a perioperative nurse, an individual:

  • Must have graduated from an accredited school of nursing with an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
  • Must have passed the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN)
  • May pursue additional education in patient assessment, intra-operative activities, discharge planning, emergency situations and sterilization
  • May pursue voluntary Certified Nurse Operating Room (CNOR) certification exam through the Association of Perioperative Nurses (AORN)

Education requirements

Individuals who wish to work as perioperative nurses must earn an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN), Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) from an accredited nursing school then pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). Candidates my take advanced courses, such as coursework in adult acute and chronic disease, maternal and child health, pediatrics, psychiatric or mental health and community health nursing.

With advanced degrees, nurses with a perioperative background can work as operating room directors, RN first assistants, clinical educators and nurse anesthetists.

Wilkes RN to MS


Job description

The job description of the perioperative nurse depends largely on the institution and role within the department. The job of a perioperative nurse begins before surgery and continues after recovery. The perioperative nurse records and monitors vital signs, interprets laboratory and diagnostic tests, ensures a safe and comfortable operating room, offers nursing care to patients and acts as a liaison between the surgical team and the patient’s family.

Inside the surgical suite, the perioperative nurse may serve in one of three capacities: scrub nurse, circulating nurse and RN first assistant. The scrub nurse selects and handles the instruments and supplies used during the surgical procedure. The circulating nurse manages the overall nursing care in the operating room. The RN first assistant delivers direct surgical care, assisting the surgeon in controlling bleeding, managing the incision and suturing during the surgical procedure.

Sample Job Description

Sample job descriptions and qualifications are sourced from various job board websites, like these:,

  • Delegates, supervises and provides nursing care for patients before, during and after surgery
  • Performs patient assessments
  • Creates and maintains a sterile and safe environment
  • Provides preoperative and postoperative instruction
  • Monitors the physiological and psychological status of the patient
  • Coordinate patient care
  • Act as a patient advocate


  • Hold a current license as an RN, BSN preferred
  • Current in BLS/CPR certification

Perioperative nursing on YouTube

Personality traits:

  • Critical thinking skills
  • Good interpersonal skills
  • Responsible
  • Technically-minded
  • Calm in stressful situations
  • Good communication skills

The perioperative nurse reports to the nurse manager or head nurse of the hospital surgical department or to administration of a doctor’s office or outpatient clinic.

Career options

Perioperative nurses typically work in:

  • Hospital surgical departments
  • Day surgery units, also known as ambulatory surgery units or outpatient surgery clinics
  • Doctor’s offices

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not produce employment and wage statistics for perioperative nurses, the bureau does expect jobs for RNs to increase 19 percent between 2012 and 2022.

The number of jobs for perioperative nurses may rise faster than for other nurses as advances in medical technology increase the number of therapeutic surgical approaches. These advances also allow surgeons to perform an increasing number of surgical procedures in outpatient clinics, offering even more employment opportunities for perioperative nurses.

National salary snapshot

Indeed lists the yearly income of perioperative nurses as $65,000, while SimplyHired posts the average annual wage of $56,000 for perioperative nurses.

Certification information

Registered nurses working as perioperative nurses may pursue voluntary certification that demonstrates special expertise and knowledge about providing nursing care before, during and after surgery. The Association of Perioperative Registered Nurses (AORN) offers the Certified Nurse Operating Room (CNOR) certification exam. Applicants must have completed at least two years and 2,400 hours of experience in perioperative nursing. At least half of those hours must be in an intra-operative setting.

The CNOR credential is valid for five years.

Cost of certification

Credential: CNOR

Fees for Non-Members:

Initial Exam: $385

Recertification: $370 if recertifying through contact hours

Fees for Members:

Initial Exam: $310 for AORN members

Recertification: $315 if recertifying through contact hours

Typical Career Path

The typical career path for perioperative nurses is to:

  • Earn Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
  • Pass NCLEX-RN
  • Work as a critical care nurse while taking continuing education courses in intraoperative activities
  • Pass the Certified Nurse Operating Room (CNOR) certification exam through the Competency and Credentialing Institute

Professional organizations

Association of periOperative Registered Nurses:

Relevant Publications

AORN Journal

Journal of PeriAnesthesia Nursing

OR Nurse Journal

Journal of Perioperative & Critical Intensive Care Nursing

Related Careers

Anesthesia nurse – provides anesthesia during surgical procedures