In our continuing series looking at the basic role of each specialist nurse, we’re looking at the job of the theatre nurse. Below we outline the different job functions a theatre nurse can have, either in the NHS or in the private sector. About Matt Farrah - follow me on Google+

Theatre Nurse Jobs

Theatre nursing jobs (called more commonly Peri-operative Nurses in the States) are typically broken down into: Scrub Nurse, Circulation Nurse and Recovery Nurse. These are the most common jobs in theatre nursing.

The role itself is, as with all nursing, highly skilled. Also, the theatre nurse, especially, tends to be someone who is really at home within a team framework. As a theatre nurse you’ll work very closely with doctors, surgeons, ODPs (Operating Department Practitioner - not to be confused with a qualified theatre nurse), anaesthetists, and other nurses.

Nursing Specialisations within Theatre Nursing

As a theatre nurse, especially within the NHS, you will be given the opportunity to specialise. For instance:

Orthopaedic Surgery

ENT surgery

Gynae Surgery

Paediatric Surgery

General Surgery

Cardiac Surgery

Neonates Surgery

Many theatre nurses, through their careers, will move from one specialism to the other. But you will most probably feel you enjoy one specialism over others.

Of course, as with all nursing specialisms, you will quickly find out if surgery is for you or not. If it is, like other nurses who spend their career in theatre, you will know very quickly.

Highly skilled and trained theatre nurses are in incredibly high demand both in the NHS and in independent hospitals. So, if this is the career for you, you will find your skills are well appreciated.

Below we briefly outline the various jobs within theatre nursing:

Circulation Nurse

The specific or primary function may sound simple, but this is a highly skilled job. Nothing is as simple as it seems. As a circulation nurse in theatre and surgery your job is to prepare and open sterile packs. It is your responsibility to ensure the sterility of theatre and surgery equipment. The focus, of course, is that you must, absolutely, minimise infection.

Scrub Nurse Job

A scrub nurse job requires excellent communication. You may have a great deal of patient communication required as part of your job. You will certainly be in frequent communication with the surgeon (reporting to the surgeon’s requests) and perhaps you may be in communication with the patient’s family too.

In addition, the scrub nurse is responsible for equipment delivery and handling (to the surgeon), checking instruments and swabs and handing them to the surgeon, and, as with the circulation nurse, you will be responsible for minimising infection.

As you might imagine, you’ll be expected to know the surgical equipment intimately as part of your job. The surgeon will assume you know your equipment, when each is used and how it is to be handled. You’ll develop this knowledge through your nurse training and, naturally, your theatre nursing experience.

Surgical Assistant Nurse Job

Occasionally, you may see jobs advertised for Surgical Assistants. It is the surgical assistant nurse’s job to, for instance, hold retractors, apply suction, administer sutures (stiches) and to slice ligatures.

Anaesthetics Nurse Job

An anaesthetics nurse will assist the anaesthetist by providing patient assistance, patient care and general comfort. Again, in addition to technical knowledge and good nursing care skills, you will need to be an excellent communicator.

Recovery Nurse Job

As a recovery nurse you will be the member of the team who accompanies the post-operative patient back to ward. You’ll be required to keep airways clear, provide any patient assistance needed as they recover from the various effects of their anaesthetics, apply drips and any other post-operative functions necessary. You’re the nursing link between theatre and the surgical ward.

Peri-operative Nurse Jobs

From time to time you will come across Peri-operative nursing jobs. This term is more common in the United States where it simply means Theatre Nursing Jobs. Peri-operative is a term that refers to all of the surgical nursing functions described above: pre-operative (communicating with the patient and family, ensuring equipment is sterile), operative (communicating with the surgeon or anaesthetist and ensuring theatre is sterile), post-operative (assisting in the safe recovery of the patient and their movement to the surgical ward).

Links to Theatre Nurse Jobs and Associations>

Theatre Nurse Jobs on

AfPP - The Association for Perioperative Practice