The operating room in a modern hospital or outpatient surgical center is a multidisciplinary area. Players on the surgical team include physicians, registered nurses, surgical technologists and specialized staff, such as the perfusionist and neurodiagnostic technologist. Each fulfills a specific function in the operating room and must meet certain educational, licensing and certification requirements.
Doctors in Surgery
Physicians in the operating room include surgeons and anesthesiologists. Surgeons may be general surgeons -- who perform a wide variety of operations on different areas of the body -- or specialists, such as orthopedic or vascular surgeons. Anesthesiologists administer anesthesia, monitor the patient and provide pain management. All physicians must complete four years of college, four years of medical school and at least four years of residency. Physicians must be licensed to practice in all states, and many become board-certified. Surgeons earned an average annual salary of $233,150 in 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while anesthesiologists earned $235,070 a year. Demand for physicians and surgeons is projected to grow 18 percent from 2012 to 2022, according to the BLS, faster than the average of 11 percent for all occupations.
Nurses in Operating Rooms
Registered nurses in the operating room may be perioperative nurses or nurse anesthetists. Perioperative nurses care for a patient from the moment of entry to the operating room until the patient recovers from the anesthesia. A perioperative nurse might have an associate degree, nursing diploma or bachelor’s degree. Nurse anesthetists, who perform the same functions as an anesthesiologist, must have a minimum of a master’s degree. Both must be licensed in all states. Certification is optional for perioperative nurses but required for nurse anesthetists. The average annual salary for RNs in 2013 was $68,910, while nurse anesthetists earned $157,690 a year, according to the BLS. Both professions are in high demand. The BLS reports a projected growth rate of 19 percent for RNs and 25 percent for nurse anesthetists from 2012 to 2022.
The Surgical Tech
Surgical technologists perform support functions in the operating room. They might set up the equipment, transport the patient, help the surgical team don sterile gowns, and pass instruments and supplies to the surgeon during the operation. These allied health workers are unlicensed and work under the supervision of licensed personnel. Most have a post-secondary certificate or associate’s degree. National certification is required by some states and employers. Some surgical technologists obtain formal training or on-the-job education to become surgical first assistants, who work directly with the surgeon. They might help expose a wound, apply traction or clamp bleeding blood vessels and suture the incision. Surgical technologists earned $44,420 a year in 2013, according to the BLS. Demand is much higher than average; the BLS projects a growth rate of 30 percent for this occupation from 2012 to 2022.
Specialized staff in the operating room include perfusionists and neurodiagnostic technologists. Perfusionists work in cardiac surgery, where they manage the heart-lung bypass machine that maintains circulation during the operation. Neurodiagnostic technologists use specialized equipment to monitor brain and nerve function. Perfusionists typically have a bachelor’s or master’s degree, while neurodiagnostic technologists typically have an associate degree and additional training in neurodiagnostic technology. Perfusionists must be certified to practice. Neurodiagnostic technologists are not licensed, and certification is optional. The salary range for perfusionists was $65,000 to $135,000 a year in 2014, according to Explore Health Careers, while the neurodiagnostic technologist salary range was $44,000 to $112,333 a year. Explore Health Careers reports the outlook for both occupations is excellent.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Physicians and Surgeons
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: May 2013 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates United States
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Registered Nurses
- Discover Nursing: Perioperative (Surgical Nurse)
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Surgical Technologists
- Explore Health Careers: Perfusionist
- Explore Health Careers: Neurodiagnostic Technologist
- Photo Credit Tomwang112/iStock/Getty Images
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