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Perioperative Registered Nurse - Circulator Role

Two nursesThe registered nurse who specializes in Perioperative Nursing can function in the primary circulator role or the scrub role. Perioperative Nursing courses are available at Gulf Coast State College in collaboration with local hospitals and surgical Centers. Perioperative Nursing is often a very challenging and rewarding field.

Perioperative nurses may have job opportunities as a circulator, scrub, educator, PACU nurse, Preop Holding nurse, ambulatory surgery outpatient, medical sales professional, or manager.  Other job positions that may require additional training such as the Registered Nurse First Assistant (RNFA) or nurse anesthetist.

The Perioperative Nurse plans and directs nursing care for patients undergoing operative and other invasive procedures. Perioperative RNs work in all types of health care facilities, such as hospitals, ambulatory or outpatient surgery centers, and physician offices. The Perioperative Nurse may delegate certain patient care tasks to suitably trained and competent unlicensed assistive personnel.

The Circulator duties are performed as a non-sterile member of the team.  The Circulator assesses the patient's condition before, during, and after the surgical operation, and plans the intraoperative care plan which is continually evaluated on an ongoing basis to provide the optimal outcome for the patient.  The Circulator serves as the patient advocate to oversee the care and needs of the patient.  The Circulator observes surgery and provides assistance to the sterile team and anesthesia, as appropriate, to meet the needs of the patient. Using critical skills and core knowledge of the surgical case, the Circulator anticipates the needs of the team and provides assistance to meet the needs of the patient. The role of Primary Circulator should not be delegated to an unlicensed assistant personnel, LPN or LVN. These personnel may assist as a Second Circulator to meet the needs of the patient during the perioperative experience.  The Registered Nurse retains the primary responsibility as the patient advocate during the procedure.

Perioperative Nurses must have the ability to interact well with all kinds of people in difficult situations.  They need emotional stability to cope with human suffering and frequent emergencies.  Perioperative Nurses must be able to accept responsibility, provide direction to others, coordinate the patient's health care, collaborate with physicians and other health care professionals, and determine when consultation is required.  Operations may require standing for long periods of time.

The annual median wage for RNs in 2017 of $72,180.  The median hourly wage was $34.70, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  The prospect for employment is strong in coming years.  Nurses will be in high demand due to the increase in the number of elderly people and the retiring "baby boomers".

The professional organization is called the Association of Perioperative Registered Nurses (AORN).  Nurses can sit for a certification examination which allows you to use the credentials CNOR.  The organization provides standards and recommendations regarding perioperative care of the patient. To learn more about the association and certification examination go to AORN

Education and Training

NSP2290, Perioperative Nursing Theory, is an online web-based course that is offered at Gulf Coast State College. It offers the didactic instruction regarding the specialized nursing skills required for surgical nursing in an operating room suite. Students, or those interested in the training, may call Brittany Page for more information.

NSP2290L, Clinical Internship to Perioperative Nursing, is a hands-on clinical experience which encompasses 150 volunteer hours completed in cooperation with the clinical facility. 

Those interested in learning how to scrub can signup for the STS2943C course which includes 80 hours of clinical scrub experience for 1 credit.

Students who complete both courses successfully with a "C" or better will receive a Certificate in Perioperative Nursing.

Some hospitals require general nursing experience prior to entering the specialty area.  Others will accept training as an acceptable alternative. Inquire at the facility where you are interested in working.

Gulf Coast State College does not discriminate against any person in its programs, activities, policies or procedures on the basis of race, ethnicity, color, national origin, marital status, religion, age, gender, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, disability, or veteran status. All questions or inquiries regarding compliance with laws relating to non-discrimination and all complaints regarding sexual misconduct or discrimination, may be directed to Lee Wood, Executive Director, Human Resources/Title II/504/Title IX Coordinator and Employment Equity Officer, Gulf Coast State College, 5230 W. US Highway 98, Panama City, FL 32401.