What is the Job Outlook and Salary of Operating Room Travel Nurses?

What is the Job Outlook and Salary of Operating Room Travel Nurses?

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Operating Room Travel Nurses are a critical part of the medical field, working closely with surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other healthcare professionals to ensure the success of various surgical procedures. These nurses have flexible schedules, go to different locations, and often earn higher salaries than their stationary counterparts. But, what truly sets them apart? In this article, we will delve into the intriguing world of Operating Room Travel Nursing, exploring its distinctive job roles, salaries, career paths, and more.


What Does an Operating Room Travel Nurse Do?

Operating room (OR) travel nurses are registered nurses who take temporary assignments in hospitals and medical facilities around the country. They work alongside other nurses and surgeons in operating rooms, providing care to patients before, during, and after surgical procedures. Some of the main responsibilities of OR travel nurses include:

Prepping patients - This involves getting patients ready for surgery by taking vitals, starting IVs, answering questions, and providing reassurance.

Assisting during surgery - OR nurses pass instruments to surgeons, monitor patients' vital signs, manage surgical equipment like lights and suction devices, and provide additional assistance as needed.

Handling specimens - Nurses handle, label and process any tissue or fluid specimens collected during procedures.

Maintaining sterile field - They set up sterile drapes and instruments, monitor sterile practices, and help maintain a sterile environment.

Tracking supplies - OR nurses keep track of supplies used during procedures and restock as needed.

Providing post-op care - After surgery, they monitor patients in recovery, manage pain and nausea, check vitals, change dressings, and prepare patients for transfer.

Communicating with team - Clear communication with surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other healthcare workers is crucial before, during and after procedures.

Documenting - Thorough documentation in the patient chart regarding the procedure, specimens collected, supplies used, and post-op status is required.

How is an Operating Room Travel Nurse Different from a Registered Nurse?

While operating room travel nurses are registered nurses (RNs), they have some key differences from nurses working permanently in other units:

  • Specialized skills and training - OR nurses complete additional training and certification beyond nursing school to work in the operating room environment.
  • Focus on surgery - Their expertise is specifically focused on perioperative care rather than other types of nursing.
  • Temporary assignments - They work temporary contracts ranging from 8 to 26 weeks in different hospitals around the region or country.
  • Greater independence - OR travel nurses often function more independently and with less direct oversight than nurses in other practice settings.
  • Flexibility - Traveling allows them flexibility in location, schedule, and workplace compared to permanent staff nurses.
  • Higher pay - Their skills and travel status allow OR travel nurses to earn higher pay than staff nurse salaries.

What are the Typical Travel Assignments for Operating Room Nurses?

Some of the most common facilities and units OR travel nurses can pick up contracts at include:

  • Major medical centers - Large hospitals doing a high volume of diverse surgeries.
  • Regional/rural hospitals - Smaller facilities with need for OR nurses to fill gaps.
  • Specialty surgical centers - Focus on particular types of surgery like orthopedics, plastics, or eyes.
  • Military hospitals - Both general and field/combat operating rooms.
  • Ambulatory surgery centers - Outpatient surgical facilities.

Assignments can involve days, evenings, nights, weekends, on-call, and even trauma surgical teams. Contracts typically last 8-26 weeks, with extensions possible.

How Important is the Role of an Operating Room Travel Nurse in Medical Facilities?

OR travel nurses play a critical role in keeping operating rooms staffed and patients safe by:

  • Filling urgent needs - Stepping into staffing gaps due to vacancies, leaves, and call-outs.
  • Providing specialty skills - Bringing proficiency in complex procedures like open-heart surgery and neurosurgery.
  • Supporting growing demand - Enabling facilities to handle growing surgical volume and new programs.
  • Maintaining care standards - Using their expertise to uphold sterile technique, patient safety, and care quality.
  • Orienting new staff - Serving as mentors and training resources for new OR nurses.
  • Promoting teamwork - Fitting smoothly into the surgical team's workflow and communication.

Their flexibility and advanced abilities make OR travel nurses a vital resource for hospitals across the country.

How Much Can You Earn as an Operating Room Travel Nurse?

What is the Average Annual Salary of an Operating Room Travel Nurse?

According to 2022 data, the average annual salary for an OR travel nurse in the U.S. is $98,847 per year. However, salaries can range much higher depending on:

  • Geographical location - Higher pay for assignments in regions with greater demand.
  • Experience level - More experienced OR nurses earn more.
  • Specialty certifications - Certification boosts earning potential.
  • Overtime and bonuses - Pick up extra shifts for overtime pay.

Benefits like housing stipends, travel reimbursement, health insurance, retirement plans can add $5,000 - $10,000+ to total compensation as well.

How Does the Salary of an Operating Room Travel Nurse Compare to other Nursing Specialties?

On average, OR travel nurses are one of the highest paying nursing specialties. Compared to other travel nurse roles:

  • ICU travel nurses average around $86,923 annually.
  • ER travel nurses earn about $82,971 per year on average.
  • Labor and delivery travel nurses make approximately $78,616 per year.

Those focusing solely on the operating room tend to earn higher salaries than medical-surgical or other generalist nurse travel roles. However, critical care specialties like ICU/ER may pay more for top-tier crisis assignments.

In Which States do Operating Room Travel Nurses Earn the Most?

The highest paying states for OR travel nurse salaries include:

  • California - $115,328 annually on average.
  • New York - Around $107,944 per year.
  • Massachusetts - Average of $105,808 annually.
  • Oregon - $104,976 average OR nurse salary.
  • Alaska - Around $103,224 per year.

Demand in these states pushes salaries higher. Rural and lower cost of living areas may pay less. Focusing on high demand regions can maximize earnings.

What is the Career Path for an Operating Room Travel Nurse?

The career path for an operating room (OR) travel nurse typically starts by becoming a registered nurse (RN) and gaining experience working in the OR. Many nurses work for 2-5 years in a hospital OR before deciding to become a travel nurse. Some key steps in the career path include:

Getting an RN license - All travel nurses must have a valid RN license. This requires completing an accredited nursing program and passing the NCLEX-RN exam.

Gaining OR experience - Hands-on experience in the OR is required for OR travel nursing jobs. This can be gained by working as an RN in the OR at a hospital.

Getting certified - Obtaining certification as a Certified Perioperative Nurse (CNOR) demonstrates competency and expertise. Many travel nurse jobs prefer or require CNOR certification.

Researching travel nursing - Browse travel nurse job boards and agency websites. Reach out to recruiters to learn about OR travel nurse opportunities and requirements.

Interviewing with agencies - Find one or more agencies that place OR travel nurses. Go through their application and interview process.

Applying for assignments - Once hired by an agency, apply for OR travel assignments at facilities around the country.

Completing assignments - Gain experience and satisfaction working contracts as an OR travel nurse around the U.S!

What Certifications, like Certified Perioperative Nurse, are Required for Traveling Nurse Jobs in the Operating Room?

Here are some of the top certifications that can help qualify RNs for OR travel nursing positions:

  • CNOR - Certified Perioperative Nurse credential awarded by the Competency & Credentialing Institute. Demonstrates expertise in surgical nursing.
  • ACLS - Advanced Cardiac Life Support certification for skills in treating cardiac arrest emergencies.
  • BLS - Basic Life Support for CPR and AED skills.
  • PALS - Pediatric Advanced Life Support certification for pediatric emergency response.

While some facilities list certifications as required, others list them as preferred. The more certs, the more competitive an RN's application typically is.

What Career Development and Job Growth Opportunities Exist for Operating Room Travel Nurses?

Working as an OR travel nurse provides excellent career development and growth opportunities, including:

  • Gain experience in different OR environments - Work at urban teaching hospitals, regional medical centers, outpatient surgery clinics, etc.
  • Exposure to new OR techniques and approaches - Expand skills as different facilities have different protocols.
  • Build a professional network - Connect with OR nurses, surgeons, and administrators at facilities across the country.
  • Earn higher salaries - Travel nurses earn more than staff nurses. Salaries increase with experience.
  • Flexibility in location - Work and live in different cities or regions of the U.S. for 3-6 month contract periods.
  • Leadership development - Experienced OR travel nurses can get lead or charge nurse roles.

Many OR travel nurses eventually transition into permanent staff roles at facilities they had good experiences at previously.

What Types of Medical Institutions Employ Operating Room Travel Nurses?

OR travel nurses have job opportunities at nearly any facility that performs surgical procedures, such as:

  • Major medical centers - Large hospitals that need to fill temporary staffing gaps or vacancies.
  • Community hospitals - Smaller local hospitals that need additional OR nurses.
  • Outpatient surgery centers - Specialized clinics performing outpatient procedures.
  • Children's hospitals - Pediatric facilities that require nurses skilled in working with kids.
  • VA hospitals - Veterans Administration medical centers need OR nurses periodically.
  • Academics institutions - University medical centers use travel nurses for flexibility.

High demand locations include major cities and metro regions where there are concentrations of large hospitals with busy ORs.

How Do You Become an Operating Room Travel Nurse?

Which Travel Nursing Agencies Offer the Best Opportunities for Operating Room Travel Nurses?

When researching agencies, look for those that: have dedicated OR recruiters, provide excellent facilities/locations, offer competitive pay & benefits, provide strong career development support, and have good reviews from nurses. Our support teams and recruiters provide a Full Circle of Support, 365 days a year. We truly value our travelers.

Speed is important when you want to land your dream OR travel nursing job. When you travel with us, you will get submitted quickly to the top OR travel nurse jobs and be first in line for an interview. Get started searching for the top OR jobs in On Demand, our powerful web app. Provide your preferences and find top OR jobs that match your needs.

What is the Process for Securing a Travel Assignment as an Operating Room Nurse?

Key steps for securing an OR travel nurse assignment include:

  • Research agencies and available assignments
  • Submit an application to one or more agencies
  • Complete an interview with an agency recruiter
  • Undergo background checks and onboarding
  • Receive an official job offer from the agency
  • Accept or decline the assignment
  • Complete any pre-assignment requirements
  • Obtain assignment details like location, housing, start date, etc.
  • Relocate for the 3-6 month assignment duration
  • Successfully complete the assignment

How Can a Registered Nurse Transition into a Travel Nurse Role in the Operating Room?

For RNs looking to shift into OR travel nursing, some key tips include:

  • Get at least 2 years of RN experience in the OR
  • Obtain applicable OR specialty certifications like CNOR
  • Build relationships with unit managers or directors who can provide strong references
  • Carefully review agency job postings to match your background and skills
  • Be flexible regarding job locations - travel where the demand is
  • Highlight your strengths and OR experience during the agency interview
  • Ask about shadowing at prospective facilities to ensure a good fit

With the right RN experience, proactive preparation, and matching to the right agency/role, transitioning from staff nurse to OR traveler can be smooth and highly rewarding for ambitious RNs.


Land your dream job faster when you travel with us. Get started with top local and national travel nurse jobs in On Demand.

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Land your dream job faster when you travel with us. Get started with top local and national travel nurse jobs in On Demand.

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Land your dream job faster when you travel with us. Get started with top local and national travel nurse jobs in On Demand.


Land your dream job faster when you travel with us. Get started with top local and national travel nurse jobs in On Demand.

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