Surgical Nurse’s Roles and Requirements


The roles of a surgical nurse in a healthcare setting have not been extensively studied despite that surgical nurses are crucial players in surgical procedures. This library research is targeted at searching for literature relevant to the topic. In the course of the research, the core competencies of a surgical nurse have been outlined. They include excellent assessment and observation skills, the ability to educate families and patients, medical treatment skills, and examination administration, planning and evaluation skills, as well as team skills. Surgical nurses also have a responsibility to care for the patient after the surgery to make sure that the process of recovery goes on without complications.

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Thesis Statement

The role of a surgical nurse is a topic that has not been explored extensively; therefore, outlining some basic roles and requirements of the surgical nurse will benefit those in the profession as well as those planning a career in nursing.

Selection and Evaluation of Sources

I searched for the Ebrary Academic Library Database for articles and books focusing on the United States and Canada. The terms used for the library search included “nurse”, “surgery”, and “surgical nurse” inserted in the subject field.

The book 101 Careers in Nursing by Novotny, Lippman, Sanders, and Fitzparick provided extensive information on various roles nurses could take in their professional practice. The book is valuable for the included interviews with nurses that operate in a range of nursing roles. The interviews gave readers an idea about the professional requirements and competencies of nurses.

According to Novotny et al. (2006), surgical nurses are registered nurses that specialize in caring for patients admitted to a healthcare facility with a condition to be resolved through a surgical procedure (p. 106). A professional surgical nurse must hold either a baccalaureate or higher degree in nursing as well as have practiced at least four thousand hours as a registered nurse. From entry to advanced level, surgical nurses play a role of health advocators for patients and their families. With experience, surgical nurses gain more advanced knowledge and skills for meeting the needs of their patients and creating efficient healthcare plans. Additionally, experienced surgical nurses are able to assist surgeons during an operation and are prepared for unpredictable situations (Novotny et al., 2006, p. 106).

I searched the Gale Virtual Reference Library for books, encyclopedias, and articles that describe different roles of nurses, including surgical nurses. Specific terms such as “nursing roles”, “nurse”, and “nursing” were used. The Gale Encyclopedia of Nursing and Allied Health came up as one of the results. Because the Encyclopedia is composed of many articles on nursing and nursing care, I decided to search for keywords such as “surgical nurse,” “nurse”, and “nursing roles” to get more results on the topic.

“Intraoperative Care” by Losey and Cataldo is an article in The Gale Encyclopedia of Nursing and Allied Health that explores the notion of intraoperative care, which refers to appropriate procedures of caring for a patient before the surgery. As to the role of a surgical nurse, intraoperative care involves monitoring all the vital signs and implementing a range of therapeutic procedures such as anesthesia or medication transfusion. All of the mentioned activities are conducted by nurses, nurse anesthetics, as well as other members of the surgical team (Losey & Cataldo, 2013, p. 1819).

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According to Losey and Cataldo (2013), the main objective of intraoperative care is ensuring the safety of the patient and providing him or her with comfort at the time of a surgical operation (p. 1819). Anesthesia is one of the integral components of intraoperative care since it has the relaxing effect on the patient’s body while also possibly causing paralysis or consciousness loss if administered incorrectly. Therefore, preoperative nurses are responsible for administering anesthesia to patients, taking into account the full range of precautions.

Periods in which intraoperative care takes place usually range from one to twelve hours, depending on how complex the surgery is and what pre-operative procedures should be performed. Surgical nurses are responsible for the ‘preparation’ stage of intraoperative care. After a patient gives informed consent for the surgical procedure, a nurse should complete the task of giving medication to the patient, monitor the patient’s state in the course of the procedure through various monitoring equipment such as blood pressure cuffs, ECG nodes, as well as pulse oximetry probes, applied to the patient before the surgery (Losey & Cataldo, 2013, p. 1820).

I searched the Gale Virtual Reference Library for encyclopedias and articles that describe different roles of nurses, including surgical nurses. The utilized search terms included keywords such as “nurse”, “surgery”, and “surgical nurse”. The Gale Encyclopedia of Surgery came up as one of the results, so I searched for keywords such as “nurse” and “surgery” in the encyclopedia to find specific articles related to the topic.

Article “Surgical Team” by McKenzie in The Gale Encyclopedia of Surgery gave a definition of a surgical team as a care unit, which provides preoperative care to patients. Each surgical team member is a specialized professional that possesses skills and knowledge to perform the designated tasks. According to McKenzie (2004), the composition of the surgical team relies on a number of key factors such as the complexity of the surgical procedure, the type of the procedure, as well as the precise location of the administered anesthesia (p. 1386). For example, the more complex the surgical procedure is, the bigger the surgical team is required due to a larger number of preoperative and postoperative tasks for which the surgical team is responsible. On the contrary, surgical procedures that are minimally invasive and do not affect a large part of the patient’s body utilize a smaller surgical team despite requiring more time for completion.

The article was also useful for listing various types of surgeries (general, cardiothoracic, neurosurgery, transplantation, and others) and surgical techniques (arthroscopy, cystoscopy, laparoscopy, and others). In the surgical team, the role of the operating nurse is not strictly identified since it can vary depending on the procedure. Operating nurses usually carry out assistance, comprehensive care, as well as procedures for pain management in the course of the surgery (McKenzie, 2004, p. 1388). In the majority of cases, an operating nurse is a surgical team member that assists the surgeon throughout the entire procedure. Furthermore, surgical nurses provide continuity between various phases of the operation. Therefore, a surgical nurse is a team member required to have the most advanced training.

Phases of preparation and aftercare are given extra attention in the article because the surgical team is also responsible for procedures necessary to both preparing the patient for the surgery and careing for the patient after it.


Losey, J., & Cataldo, L. (2013). Intraoperative Care. In Brigham Narins (Ed.), The Gale Encyclopedia of Nursing and Allied Health. (pp. 1819-1822). Detroit, MI: Gale Research Inc.

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McKenzie, N. (2004). Surgical Team. In A. J. Senagore (Ed.), The Gale Encyclopedia of Surgery. (pp. 1385-1389). Farington Hills, MI: Gale Research Inc.

Novotny, J., Lippman, D., Sanders, N., & Fitzpatrick, J. (2006). 101 Careers in nursing. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.

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