Perioperative Nurse Salary in 2023

Perioperative Nurse Salary in 2023

Perioperative nurses are employed to look after patients during operations. They work in operating theatres and emergency operating rooms. These registered nurses are trained to assist the surgeon with a variety of tasks before, during, and after the operation. They also provide patient care, helping patients to relax and stay comfortable during surgery.

Nurses can also work pre-operative if they’re helping patients before surgery and post-operative if they care for patients after surgery. Perioperative nursing is a very rewarding career that allows you to make a big difference in the lives of your patients. There are also many opportunities for career growth in this field. Let’s look at how you can become an operating room nurse. We’ll also provide details of the perioperative nurse salary range. 

Where perioperative nurses work

Perioperative nurses work in ambulatory surgery centers, emergency operating theatres, day-surgery units, physicians’ offices, or clinics. They assist surgeons in the surgical procedure by cleaning and passing implements and ensuring the patient is safe and comfortable. 

Perioperative nursing job description

These nurses have a wide range of responsibilities during surgery. They help keep patients comfortable, clean surgical implements and assist the surgeon. Many perioperative nurses are also employed before the surgery as a pre-operative nurse. They will also help get the patient ready for surgery and discuss the procedure with the patient and their families. They will also listen to any concerns the patient may have. 

Before surgery, pre-operative nurses will assess the patient and help them relax so they are ready for their operation. They may have to check vital signs or provide treatment before surgery can commence. During surgery, the pre-operative nurse will change their role and become a perioperative nurse providing acute care.

Types of perioperative nurses

There are generally two perioperative nurses caring for each patient during surgery. The operating team is also likely to include a surgical technologist, scrub nurse, and a CRNA (nurse anesthetist). There are three different ways that perioperative nurses can be employed within the operating room. Nurses either work as a scrub nurse, circulating nurse, or RN first assistant, depending on their level of education and experience. 

Circulating nurse

One of the nurses will circulate, working under the supervision of the surgeon and anesthetist, and is responsible for the patient’s general safety and well-being. This nurse must ensure that safety procedures are adhered to. The circulating nurse may also assist the surgical team but isn’t responsible for handling surgical equipment.

Scrub nurse

The other perioperative nurse who assists in surgery is called a scrub nurse. This role includes acting as a surgical assistant and cleaning and sterilizing tools, which are handed to the surgeon when required. The scrub nurse prepares the medical instruments before surgery and ensures they are correctly cared for and put away safely after surgery.

RN first assistant

Ambitious and dedicated perioperative nurses who want to engage in further study to progress in their nursing career can train to become a certified registered nurse first assistants. The RN first assistant has greater responsibilities and is trained to directly assists the surgeon with operations. The primary responsibility of this nurse is to control the patient’s bleeding, which involves wound exposure and suturing incisions.

After surgery 

After the operation is complete, the perioperative nurses will take on a post-operative role and assist the patient in their recovery. Patients who are very sick will require twenty-four hour vigilance. The role involves caring for the patient and ensuring they remain safe and comfortable. 

Hospital based perioperative nurses are required to work changing schedules which includes evening and weekend work. In some hospitals, perioperative nurses need to be on call in case a life needs to be saved immediately. Perioperative nurses who clinics and physician’s offices employ often have a more flexible work schedule than those that work in hospitals and day-surgery units. 

What is the typical career path of a perioperative nurse?

If you’re looking to pursue a career as a perioperative nurse, you’ll first need to become a registered nurse (RN) by studying for a bachelor’s degree in nursing. This route generally takes four years and is the most common way people begin their nursing careers. It’s worth noting that different states require slightly differing criteria for registered nurse practitioner credentials. Nurses who pursue graduate degrees will earn advanced credentials and enter the workforce with a higher salary.

Other routes into the profession include taking an associate degree in nursing or starting with a diploma course before attending university. Whichever route you choose, you’ll be required to achieve an RN license before specializing in perioperative care. To become a Registered nurse practitioner, you’ll need a minimum of an associate degree, as well as clinical experience. You’ll then need to pass the national council licensure examination (NCLEX).

After you’ve trained as a registered nurse, you can specialize in perioperative nursing and do further study in this area. It’s a good idea to first work as an RN and, if possible, to work experience in an emergency clinic as the best way to decide whether the career is for you is to be assigned to the emergency room. The operating theatre is a faced paced environment to work in, and everything is done quickly. If even small mistakes are made, or the nurse is too slow, this can result in death for the patient. Work experience can be gained by taking part in a residency program. 

The Competency and Credentialing Institute (CCI) offers training programs and certification for nurses who want a career in the operating room. There’s a selection of different specialisms with unique criteria. One of the best options for specializing is the  CNOR for perioperative nurses. This qualification requires you to complete a minimum of 2,400 hours of study and two years of clinical experience. You’ll then need to sit and pass a CNOR test. The Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) has information on their website that will help you prepare for the CNOR exam.

If you’re looking to advance your skills and get into an advanced position, you may like to study the Certified Surgical Services Manager (CSSM) credential or become a registered nurse first assistant by taking the CRNFA certification. Other certifications are available to help you progress in a perioperative career, including the Infection Prevention and Control (CIC) certification.   

Gaining a specialty certification is an excellent way to demonstrate that you’re passionate about your career and field of study. It also shows employers that you’re motivated and want to advance your career. Certifications show that you’ve spent extra time doing further study and are up to date with evidence-based research. Certification can help you progress and make you more skillful at your job. 

What skills and qualities are needed to become a perioperative nurse

Working as a perioperative nurse can be challenging; nurses in these roles must be clear-headed and able to handle stressful situations, especially if they’re working in emergency surgery. Perioperative nurses are trained to perform complex nursing tasks before, during, and after the operation.

These nurses generally report high job satisfaction and have a diverse and rewarding career. Operation room nurses are highly skilled as they have completed general nursing training and an extensive perioperative nursing program.

Working in an operating theatre isn’t for everyone, and many nurses find it very stressful. To become a successful perioperative nurse, you’ll need good problem-solving abilities, clear and confident communication. Nurses must have a sharp mind and be able to quickly understand emergency commands to help save patients’ lives. As with all nursing jobs, these professionals require a compassionate nature and a pleasant bedside manner.

Candidates are required to be physically, mentally, and emotionally robust as nurses need to lift heavy items and be able to keep working when things get chaotic and stressful. Perioperative nurses also need to have excellent observation skills, be well organized, and possess great time management. Organizational skills are necessary to help nurses with treatment plans and medical records. Perioperative nurses are also trained to understand medical terminology and learn about the best practices which allow them to perform their duties effectively. 

Occupational hazards 

Nurses working on the front line in operating theatres are exposed to a range of occupational hazards. This is because the job is very fast-paced, and the position involves handling medical instruments, drugs, and supplies that may be hazardous. Some of the medical supplies will have dangerous side effects if they are not handled correctly. 

Perioperative nurses need to be careful as minor wounds, including scratches and cuts from implements and stings from needles, are relatively common. Often accidents happen as the result of having to work quickly to save a life.

Surgical nursing can also put these professionals at risk of drug or radiation exposure. Gases are often used during surgery which can cause side effects to nurses if they aren’t careful. Perioperative nurses are also required to use disinfectant regularly, which can dry out the skin. Many nurses end up suffering from muscle pain and aching backs due to patient handling and long working hours. 

One of the main downsides to perioperative nursing is the effect constantly changing shift patterns, and stress at work can have on nurses. Many in the profession end up suffering from burnout or other illnesses caused by stress.

Median salary for perioperative nurses by career experience

The average salary for a mid-career level perioperative nurse in America is approximately $70,559. Expected salary is likely to increase depending on education, experience, years in the job, health care setting, and which state you work in. Entry-level nurses who have recently graduated are likely to earn less than $60,000. Those with years of experience can earn over $80,000, depending on where they work and which state they live.

How do perioperative nurses’ salaries compare with other nurses’?

The average registered nurse salary is between $52,330 and $60,00, with nurses employed in general or surgical hospitals receiving better wages. Nurses working in hospitals, including perioperative nurses, generally make more than those working in home health care or nurses that work in doctor’s clinics or nursing care facilities.

Perioperative nurses often receive a competitive benefits package that comprises services such as child care, medical care, insurance, educational opportunities, and bonuses.

Nurses’ salaries vary depending on their industry and the type of medicine or care specialization. The highest-paying registered nurses generally work in the pharmaceutical manufacturing sector. Nursing careers of all kinds are considered financially lucrative. 

How much do the highest-paid perioperative nurses typically make?

The salary range for perioperative nurses ranges from $55,830 for those entering the career to up to $97,000 for the highest paid jobs. New graduates are likely to earn between $55,830 and $60,000 annually. Those who have two or three years’ experience will earn between $60,260 to $65,000, depending on the place of work and state. 

Those who have progressed to a mid-level career are likely to earn an average salary of between $66,330 and $70,559 yearly. While the highest-paid job will go to those with the most experience, late career perioperative nurses with over ten years of experience can expect to earn up to $80,000. In contrast, registered nurse first assistants who work directly with the surgeon and have increased responsibility can earn over $100,000. 

Perioperative nurse salaries by state

Career opportunities and salaries vary depending on location and industry. General medical and surgical hospitals generally pay the highest wages to perioperative nurses at all levels of their careers. South Dakota has the greatest concentration of perioperative positions across all the states. While this state may not pay the highest wages in America, job prospects and industry growth look good. 

Which states offer the highest salaries to perioperative nurses?

Some cities in the states have an average salary that’s higher than the national average. This is most likely to be due to the cost of living in different states. For example, Los Angeles has the highest average salary for a perioperative nurse at $97,148. Other states such as New York, Washington, and California also have higher salaries as the cost of living and housing are high in these areas. 


Known as the sunshine state, California is a popular place to live, and many people also retire to the state. California has the highest nurse salary for both RN and perioperative nurses of all the states, with an average salary of $97,148. This salary is approximately $20,00 a year above the national average. If you’re looking for a high-paying role, you may like to apply for jobs in Los Angeles. San Francisco has a perioperative nurse job market which is generally very active with lots of companies hiring and opportunities for promotion. 

New York

New York is another high-paying state. All registered nurses earn more in New York than they do in other regions, with perioperative nurses earning an average of $81,094. The highest paying place is New York City, where the cost of living is considerably higher than in other areas.


Texas is one of the lowest-paying states for perioperative nurses, although the cost of living is generally considered lower than much of America. Cities such as Houston have an average salary of $69,329. While in Dallas, perioperative nurses make approximately $70,000. 

Opportunities for job growth as a perioperative nurse

The projected growth rate for perioperative nursing is likely to increase significantly over the next decade. New medical techniques and technologies are allowing doctors to carry out more lifesaving surgeries than ever before. This means that surgeries can be completed faster and are less laborious.

The demand for perioperative nurses is high in most states due to the relatively high turnover of staff. Many people who are employed in surgical theatres leave the profession or switch to a different nursing specialty due to the stress the job involves. 

In many states, there’s an ongoing shortage of perioperative registered nurses as employees are reaching retirement age. This gives the younger generation more career opportunities, and the prospect of gaining a job is high for anyone who trains in this area.  

Many states in America, as well as the nation as a whole, has an aging population. Older adults are generally deemed to need more medical attention and are more likely to have surgery than younger generations. Therefore, the job outlook for perioperative nurses looks bright.

There are also many new healthcare challenges across America, including increased cancer rates and an ongoing opioid crisis. These issues affect the operating room, and as a surgical nurse practitioner, it’s wise to keep up to date with changing healthcare needs that may affect the job. 

How can perioperative nurses apply their skills to other jobs?

Although surgical nurse salaries are generally high, many nurses choose to change career path and move to a different department after a few years’ service. As the working hours are long and the job is both physically and mentally challenging, many nurses change roles. Anyone considering a career as a perioperative registered nurse should be aware of the job’s nature and assess whether they can meet the demands of the employment. Here are some of the ways perioperative nurses change roles and become a clinical nurse specialist:

Nurse educator or nurse manager

Many perioperative nurses decide to become nurse educators, which involves training students and colleagues in a clinical environment. It’s also possible to get a teaching position at university, become a guest lecturer or get into the managerial side of the business. 

To get into education, you’ll need to do additional study. Completing a doctorate would be a good idea. This position would suit anyone who’s organized, likes motivating others, and has good leadership skills. 

Registered nurse first assistant

There are many opportunities to advance with perioperative nursing. Many nurses enjoy working in a fast-paced environment and want to further their education. Training to become a certified registered nurse first assistants (RNFA) will improve your job prospects and salary. The job involves the increased responsibility of helping the surgeon control patient’s bleeding. 

If you’re thinking of becoming an RNFA, there are many things to consider as the role doesn’t suit everyone. You’ll need to be very confident in your nursing abilities and be able to handle the extra workload safely. The job has an increase in emotional pressure as it’s more stressful. 

It’s also worth noting that not all hospitals employ RNFAs, so if you’re thinking about this career path, you may like to find out if there are likely to be job opportunities in the hospital you work in; otherwise, you’ll need to look into moving to build your career.

If you’re an ambitious individual who wants to become an RNFA, you’ll need a nursing degree, have obtained an RN license, and at least two years of employment as a perioperative nurse. You can then apply for the CCI’s CNOR (certified nurse operating room) certification. Nurses must work as an RNFA for a minimum of 2,000 hours before taking their certification exam. 

Nurse anesthetist or perianesthesia nurse

There is also the opportunity to train as a nurse anesthetist. This job involves assessing the patient, providing anesthesia, and observing the patients’ vital signs to ensure they stay safe and comfortable during surgery.

Alternatively, training to become a perianesthesia nurse is an option. This type of practical nurse works with patients who have just undergone surgery and are in the process of recovering from anesthesia. Perianesthesia nurses work in different roles and are involved in preparing patients for surgery and caring for people coming around after surgery. They must closely monitor patients to ensure they wake up safely and remain comfortable. To become a perianesthesia nurse, you’ll find the need to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist and then gain work experience looking after patients recovering from surgery.

If you’re looking to become a perianesthesia nurse, you’ll need strong observation and assessment skills and an excellent foundation in pharmacology. You’ll also need to have sound IV skills, basic life support (BLS) certificate, and certification in advanced cardiovascular life support (ACLS). The role also requires vast experience in a surgical environment and a knowledge of anesthesia and sedation techniques.  

Other specialties

An operating room nurse can also specialize in other areas such as dental, pediatric surgery, orthopedics, neuro or spinal surgery, or cardiac operations. Many other specialties allow for lifelong learning, and nurses can build up their skill set to get a higher-paid job. This will enable nurses to have an interesting career and keep them motivated. 

Some nurses decide to give up working in acute care and instead train in a different specialism to become a nurse midwife or practice travel nursing.


Here are some websites which will give you more information about becoming a perioperative nurse. You’ll find helpful information, whether you’re a student, have already worked as a perioperative nurse, and are looking to specialize, or are a school leave who’s considering the profession. 

Association of PeriOperative Registered Nurses 

The AORN publishes a journal with a new perspective on nursing, updates on treatments, and medical research, which will allow you to refresh your knowledge. The site also enables nursing candidates to attend workshops and watch webinars that are relative to the field of perioperative nursing. 

American Association of Critical-Care Nurses 

The AACN has a critical care webinar series which would be useful for anyone aspiring to work in acute or surgical care. Funding for research experiences can also be applied for on the website, and the career center has various information about training for different roles. 

Competency and Credentialing Institute 

If you’re looking to further your education, CCI is the site to visit. The institute provides training via webinars and awards for nursing credentials in various disciplines, including perioperative nurse specialties and surgical services management. There are also many free learning opportunities and continued education options available on the website.

Nurse.com Job Search 

For those who are already trained as a perioperative nurse, this site has a great job board that allows you to find positions to apply for. The website allows you to search for perioperative nurse jobs by location, employer, or job type, and you can also receive alerts by email when a position becomes available. You’ll also find continuing education opportunities on the nurse.com website, including free classes

American Nurses Association 

The ANA has a career center where you’ll find lots of useful advice and job listings. You can also use the site to network with other nursing professionals. There’s a regularly updated blog and forums and advice on issues such as ethics, nursing policy, and nurse abuse.


An operating room nurse job can be very rewarding with many opportunities to specialize in areas that you’re interested in. The profession is constantly growing and evolving and has a good projected growth rate over the next ten years. Perioperative nurses can make a higher salary than registered nurses. These factors make this decade an exciting time to get into the operating room as a scrub nurse, perioperative nurse, or surgical nurse. The work requires a certain type of personality, as these nurses work in a fast-paced, stressful environment which can be dangerous.

Nurses who decide to specialize in an area of perioperative nursing will have great job prospects, opportunities for learning, and a stimulating career. There are many challenges, but the job is rewarding and will motivate nurses to stay at the top of their game. 

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