How to Become a Surgical Nurse

In addition to assisting the surgeon during surgery, surgical nurses take care of patients before and after surgery. As a surgical nurse, you'll need to know your patient's history and advocate for him or her during surgery when he or she can't communicate with the doctors [source: Careers and Colleges].

There are several types of surgical nurses, including scrub nurses (who pass supplies to surgeons as they operate), RN first assistants (who care for patients directly) and circulating nurses (who work outside the operating room) [source: Discover Nursing].


If you want to be a surgical nurse, you must:

  • Care about people
  • Have a good memory for details
  • Work well with others
  • Have good intuition.
  • Be able to think on your feet
  • Work well under pressure

In order to become a surgical nurse you'll need to:

  • Complete a nursing course (online or on site) and receive a diploma, a bachelor's degree or an associate's degree in nursing [source: Inner Body].
  • Complete medical and surgical laboratory training.
  • Pass a licensing exam.
  • Get board certified from the American Nurse Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the Medical-Surgical Nursing Certification Board (MSNCB) [source: Inner Body]. Although this isn't absolutely necessary, it will be advantageous when you look for a job.
  • Complete an internship, which is sometimes called an externship.

Once you're certified as a surgical nurse you'll have to attend continuing education workshops every few years to keep your skills and information current.

If you're already a registered nurse you can take an exam that will license you as a certified nurse for the operating room (CNOR) [source: Careers and Colleges].

The job market for nurses is expected to grow faster than that of other occupations because the number of older people who require health care is growing [source: BLS].