what is a perioperative nurse?

As a perioperative nurse, you work in the operating room and are sometimes called a theatre nurse since you provide specialised patient care throughout surgery or intervention procedures. Before surgery, you prepare the patient for the procedure. For instance, you fill out documentation and consent forms and explain the procedure to the patient.

In the operating room, you assist surgeons during procedures. You may act as a scrub nurse, passing instruments and supplies to surgeons or monitoring a patient's vitals during a procedure. Since you are in charge of patient care during the surgery, you ensure the operating room is safe and comfortable for patients. After the surgery, you monitor patients closely and report any changes to the surgeons for immediate action. You also educate patients and their families on post-surgical care and pain management.

Your duties also include cleaning surgical equipment and the operating rooms after surgery. You disinfect and sterilise the tools used and ensure they are clean for the next procedure. If you want to excel as a perioperative nurse, you require exceptional problem-solving skills to handle any issues that arise. Being attentive to details also prevents medical mistakes during and after surgery.

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average perioperative nurse salary

In Australia, perioperative nurses earn an average salary of $93,000 per year. However, your remuneration package depends on experience and educational qualifications. In an entry-level position or your first year as a perioperative nurse, you start with a salary of $85,000 per year. With experience and educational qualifications, you earn a higher salary of $100,000 annually.

how to increase your salary as a perioperative nurse

You can boost your remuneration package by improving your qualifications and experience. For instance, when you gain additional qualifications in resuscitation or anaesthesia, you are likely to earn a higher salary compared to theatre nurses with only a graduate certificate in perioperative nursing. Having extensive experience also boosts your remuneration expectations. When you are new to the role, you have minimal experience. However, having years of experience improves your expertise and makes it easier to negotiate a higher salary.

Your area of specialisation may also influence your earnings. For instance, when working in cardiology, you require some experience in handling cardiac patients. Hence, you are likely to earn more due to the additional requirements. Assisting in general surgical procedures reduces your remuneration prospects.

Want to know what you will earn as a perioperative nurse? Check out what you are worth with our salary checker.


types of perioperative nurses

Perioperative nurses specialise in different areas. Some perioperative nurses become holding bay nurses. As a holding bay nurse, you receive and admit patients to a pre-operative environment. Your job is to obtain relevant medical information, such as allergies or sensitivities to medication, that will help the surgical team. As an anaesthetic nurse, you assist the anaesthetist before and after surgery, helping to identify the right anaesthesia to use and monitor vital signs throughout the surgery.

As a circulating nurse, you work inside the operating room during surgery. Your job is to give a surgeon the instruments and tools they need to perform the procedure. You also prepare and clean surgical equipment.

male in an operating room
male in an operating room

working as a perioperative nurse

Working as a perioperative nurse involves assisting patients and surgeons throughout surgical procedures. Check out the duties, responsibilities and work environments of perioperative nurses.


education and skills

The first step towards becoming a perioperative nurse is becoming a registered nurse. Pursue a bachelor's degree in nursing, which equips you with patient care techniques and clinical knowledge. You'll learn how to take patient vitals and conduct medical examinations. Before practising as a registered nurse, fulfil the requirements of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) and register with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.

After practising as a registered nurse for a few years, pursue a postgraduate qualification, such as a graduate certificate in perioperative nursing. You should also consider getting a relevant master’s degree.

perioperative nurse skills and competencies

Successful perioperative nurses have the following skills and qualities:

  • communication skills: as a perioperative nurse, you communicate with patients and their families. Your exceptional communication skills help you explain complex concepts to patients and their families. With written communication skills, you prepare medical reports and update records after operations to track patient care.
  • organisational skills: as a perioperative nurse, you manage various tasks in the operating room. Having organisational skills helps you make better decisions, work efficiently, and provide support to surgeons during procedures.
  • knowledge of maintaining a safe or sterile environment: as a perioperative nurse, you are expected to adhere to cleanliness and sanitation standards. You should know how to maintain a safe and sterile medical environment for the patients. This involves cleaning surgical equipment and keeping contaminants away from surfaces.
  • critical thinking skills: as a perioperative nurse, you are expected to think critically and quickly during emergency situations. Having critical thinking skills helps you solve problems logically and calmly, which increases the chances of successful surgeries.
  • physical strength: as a perioperative nurse, you require good physical stamina since your role involves standing and walking. You also lift patients and help them to their wheelchairs. Being physically fit helps you stand on your feet for long hours.
  • multitasking skills: since you handle multiple tasks, being efficient is crucial. It is important to have multitasking skills to juggle all of the tasks.



FAQs about working as a perioperative nurse

Here, you will find the answers to the most frequently asked questions about the profession of a perioperative nurse.

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