• 12 May 2020
  • 6 min read

What nursing jobs are available to you as a Theatre Nurse?

  • Olivia Lewis
    Theatre Nurse
"Immersing yourself into different specialties, acquiring new skills, and participating in training will help you progress."

Theatre Nurse, Olivia Lewis, provides a guide to the jobs available to Theatre Nurses, and outlines what each role entails as well as the career progression options.

Topics covered in this article

What is a Theatre Nurse?

What is the role of a Scrub Nurse?

What is the role of a Circulating Nurse?

Can you specialise within Theatre Nursing?

How do the various roles differ?

What is the career progression like for Theatre Nurses?

How can you develop your skills as a Theatre Nurse?

What is a Theatre Nurse?

Theatre Nurses are Registered Nurses with a nursing degree.

Theatre Nurses work specifically within an operating theatre environment and alternate between two main roles; scrubbing and circulating.

What is the role of a Scrub Nurse?

When a Theatre Nurse is “scrubbing”, they work within the sterile field of the operating theatre.

Before surgery, Scrub Nurses wash their hands thoroughly and don a sterile gown.

They enter the theatre and open their surgical trays, these trays contain all the instruments that are required to complete the surgery.

They gather other equipment from the circulating staff, such as swabs, sharps, blades, and other packaged instruments.

Scrub Nurses check every item on their tray for damage, and ensure they are working properly for the surgeon.

Each swab, needle, and blade, must be accounted for.

Find Your Next Job on Nurses.co.uk

1000s of nursing and care home jobs, updated daily

Find Out More

These are all written on the board to help the Scrub Nurse keep track of what they have on their tray.

The Scrub Nurse then helps prepare the patient by cleaning the patient skin with iodine or chlorhexidine, followed by draping the patient, which creates a sterile field to work within.

The Scrub Nurse then hands the instruments, swabs, and sharps to the surgeon, when he requests them.

The instruments and other items must be handed to the surgeon in a timely and appropriate manner, e.g. all sharps must be carefully handed to the surgeon so they do not hurt themselves.

If an emergency occurs during the operating, Scrub Nurses must be prepared.

The Scrub Nurse must stay calm and act quickly - for example, assisting the surgeon to stem bleeding via handing the surgeon clamps or gauze packs.

Or requesting urgent items from circulating staff.

When the surgery is ending, the Scrub Nurse ensures every item is accounted for, and let’s the surgeon know, so he can close the patient up.

What is the role of a Circulating Nurse?

The Circulating Nurse works outside of the sterile field, within the operating theatre.

The Circulating Nurse ensures the scrub team has everything they need and that the operating runs smoothly.

The Circulating Nurse is the communicator - he or she will answer any calls or pagers and relay urgent messages to the Scrub Nurse, who will inform the Surgeon.

The Circulating Nurse also assists the Scrub Nurse in setting up equipment like diathermy machines, and will fetch any other equipment or items that are needed.

If an emergency happens during surgery, the Circulating Nurse will be expected to call the relevant Doctor or consultant to rectify the issue, e.g. a patient needs an urgent tracheostomy as they are not ventilating, so the nurse will call the ENT surgeon and ask him to urgently come to theatre.

Can you specialise within Theatre Nursing?

Yes! Most Theatre Nurses are specialised within one particular field.

There are various different specialties available.

Many nurses start in general surgery (appendix removals, etc), and consolidate theatre skills.

They then move to a specialised area.

However, some nurses start in a specialised area and are trained on the job, depending on their vacancies.

How do the various roles differ?

The various theatre roles differ depending on which specialty you work in.

For example, delicate eye surgery in ophthalmology is very different to amputating legs in orthopedics.

Operating times also differ - more complex surgeries often take longer to complete than simple surgeries.

Theatre Nursing has the same principles, no matter what specialty you are working in.

These principles include working within the sterile field, setting up trays, and counting instruments and swabs.

Regardless of the specialty, the common goal is to achieve the best possible outcomes for the patient.

What is the career progression like for Theatre Nurses?

Career progression for Theatre Nurses starts with getting as much experience as possible.

Immersing yourself into different specialties, acquiring new skills, and participating in training will help you progress.

Surgical Care Practitioner

Career progression for Theatre Nurses could involve becoming a surgical care practitioner (SCP).

Surgical care practitioners are experienced operating department professionals.

Their main duties are to support surgeons in their role before, during, and after procedures.

With experience and training, SCP’s can perform minor surgeries on their own.

Being a SCP allows nurses to stay within a clinical role, while transitioning into advanced care.

Operating Theatre Manager

Most theatre managers were once Theatre Nurses, so this is a great route to take if you love to take charge and enjoy being a leader!

Managers are responsible for the wellbeing of theatre staff and ensure everything runs smoothly.

Many theatre managers still get the opportunity to scrub in for surgeries if they are short staffed, so clinical skills can be upheld.

How can you develop your skills as a Theatre Nurse?

To develop your skills as a Theatre Nurse, get involved with as many surgeries as possible, attend training sessions and complete post-graduate study.

Most theatre nursing skills simply come with experience, repetition, and learning from your mistakes.

Tips for becoming a Theatre Nurse

● Ask plenty of questions

● Watch as many surgeries as possible before getting involved

● Learn human anatomy - different blood vessels, muscles, pathology, and organs

● Ask your manager if there are any courses you can take to broaden your knowledge

● Learn from your mistakes and celebrate your victories - like the first time you scrub in for a complex surgery on your own!

Find your next Theatre Nurse job here.

About the author

  • Olivia Lewis
    Theatre Nurse

I am a 24-year-old Theatre Nurse working at the Royal Cornwall Hospital NHS trust. I specialise in general and emergency, but often rotate between theatres. In late 2018 I moved to the UK from New Zealand. In New Zealand I worked as a RN at Skin Institute, a private skin cancer, cosmetic, and dermatology clinic. In the future I would like to start my own clinic in cosmetic medicine. I am also passionate about international nursing and helping other nurses come to the UK.

See all of our RGN jobs

4233 jobs currently available

Search Jobs

  • Olivia Lewis
    Theatre Nurse

About the author

  • Olivia Lewis
    Theatre Nurse

I am a 24-year-old Theatre Nurse working at the Royal Cornwall Hospital NHS trust. I specialise in general and emergency, but often rotate between theatres. In late 2018 I moved to the UK from New Zealand. In New Zealand I worked as a RN at Skin Institute, a private skin cancer, cosmetic, and dermatology clinic. In the future I would like to start my own clinic in cosmetic medicine. I am also passionate about international nursing and helping other nurses come to the UK.