what is a surgical nurse?

As a surgical nurse, you provide patient care during surgery and work with patients in pre-operative or post-operative healthcare settings. In pre-operative care, you act as a link between the patient and the surgical team. For instance, you review patients' medical histories and communicate any concerns to the surgeons. You also alleviate any anxiety by providing support and information related to the surgical procedure.

During surgery, you work closely with the surgical team to ensure they have the supplies they need for the procedure. You sterilise surgical instruments, set up equipment for surgery, and retrieve the equipment that the surgeon has used for sterilisation. After the surgery, you monitor the anaesthesia levels in the patient and advise other health professionals on the patient’s progress in the recovery room.

In addition to providing nursing care, you also educate patients on what to expect during and after surgery. You discuss the possible complications to ensure the patients understand the procedures before signing the consent forms.

As a surgical nurse, being attentive to details when monitoring patients' progress is crucial. Any slight changes could indicate post-surgery complications with serious medical consequences. The ability to multitask also helps you juggle multiple responsibilities associated with the role.

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average surgical nurse salary

As a surgical nurse, you receive an average remuneration package of $85,000 per year. In an entry-level position, you have minimal experience, which attracts a salary of $79,000 per year. As you improve your experience, your earnings increase gradually, and you can take home over $121,000 per year.

what factors affect the salary of a surgical nurse in Australia?

The main determinant of your salary is your expertise. Hence, having additional qualifications improves your earning prospects. Having years of experience showcases your expertise, and you can negotiate a higher salary. Experienced surgical nurses perform complex duties and may even perform minor procedures. That’s why the most experienced surgical nurses earn more.

Your area of expertise also significantly affects your earnings. When you work as a surgical nurse for plastic surgeons, you are likely to earn more than surgical nurses working on simple surgical procedures. For instance, life-saving neurosurgery or cardiac surgery involves complex duties, improving your earning prospects.

The location also influences your earnings. When you work in metro areas, you are likely to earn more compared to surgical nurses in smaller towns. The demand for surgical nurses in metro areas increases your earning prospects.

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


types of surgical nurses

As a surgical nurse, you can specialise in specific areas of surgical procedures. For instance, as a scrub nurse, you prepare the surgical instruments and equipment used in surgeries. You also work alongside the surgeon to ensure the operating room is sterile throughout the surgery and retrieve the required surgical tools.

As a circulatory surgical nurse, you take patients to the operating rooms and ensure they are comfortable. When surgery commences, you monitor the patient's vital signs and ensure they are stable throughout the procedure. As a registered nurse first assistant, you assist surgeons in operating rooms. Your duties include cutting, handling and removing human tissues. You also suture wounds and regulate bleeding.

women in a surgery room
women in a surgery room

working as a surgical nurse

Are you interested in becoming a surgical nurse? Let’s explore the specific duties, responsibilities and work environments of surgical nurses.


education and skills

If you want to become a surgical nurse, the first step is to get the right education and experience. You can start with a bachelor of nursing degree to meet the requirements of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA). You should also apply for registration with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.

Gain experience through internships and entry-level roles. When you have at least a year of experience in nursing, you can pursue a graduate certificate in clinical nursing (surgical) to prepare you for your career. Having additional training in critical care or CPR resuscitation techniques also improves your career prospects.

surgical nurse skills and competencies

Some of the qualities of a surgical nurse include:

Some of the qualities of a surgical nurse include:

  • organisational skills: as a surgical nurse, you are part of a team of surgeons and nurses tasked with surgical procedures. Since surgery requires a controlled environment, you need good organisational skills to excel in the role. Your organisational skills help you plan all the tasks leading up to the surgery.
  • teamwork skills: as a surgical nurse, you work closely with various health professionals. Your teamwork skills help you collaborate well with others and ensure efficiency and conflict-free operating rooms.
  • technical skills: as a surgical nurse, you rely on technical skills to set up surgical equipment and assist surgeons during procedures. Your technical knowledge helps you monitor vital signs and use modern surgical equipment in operating rooms.
  • attention to detail: as a surgical nurse, it is important to be attentive to details when monitoring a patient's conditions during and after surgery. With your detail-oriented skills, you can easily identify post-surgery complications by checking the vital signs and looking for symptoms.
  • communication skills: as a surgical nurse, you require seamless communication and collaboration to plan surgeries. Your interpersonal and communication skills help you foster a team environment that promotes high-quality patient care.

FAQs about working as a surgical nurse

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

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