Travel Nursing in the Operating Room

Operating room (OR) nurses play a crucial role in assisting patients, surgeons, and healthcare teams throughout surgical procedures. The demand for OR travel nurses remains consistently high. However, it is important for OR nurses to understand various factors that can affect their travel nursing career and set realistic expectations.

The Job Outlook for Operating Room Travel Nursing

OR nursing is among the top seven most in-demand specialties for travel nursing, according to Healthcare Traveler. Agencies often have a backlog of unfilled OR travel jobs, indicating that the demand surpasses the supply. This trend is expected to continue in the foreseeable future.

The Association of Perioperative Registered Nurses (AORN) identifies two trends that will further increase the demand for OR nurses. Firstly, the average age of OR nurses is 53, and a significant number of them plan to retire soon. Secondly, the rise of ambulatory surgery centers and office-based operations leads to an increased demand for OR nurses. These trends create ample opportunities for OR travel nurses.

Experience Requirements for OR Travel Nurses

OR nursing encompasses a diverse range of responsibilities, including scrubbing, circulating, or both during surgeries. Specific experience may be required for cases such as eye surgery, ear/nose/throat procedures, or cardiovascular surgeries. Familiarity with specialized equipment like the da Vinci Surgical System might also be necessary. Consequently, the qualification requirements for OR travel nurses vary significantly.

To ensure that their skill set is accurately represented, OR nurses should pay attention to their submission profiles. Completing comprehensive Skills Checklists is essential for assessing their OR skills. If any essential skills are missing from the checklist, they should be included in the application or resume.

Researching the specific skills sought after by employers and highlighting these skills prominently on the application and resume is crucial for OR travelers. This is especially important due to the specialized nature of OR nursing. Hospitals often require higher minimum experience levels for OR nurses compared to other specialties. While most travel jobs necessitate at least one year of experience in the specialty within the past three years, a larger percentage of OR travel jobs require two or more years of recent OR experience.

License and Certification Requirements for OR Travel Nurses

Standard certification requirements for OR travel jobs include Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS). It is highly recommended to obtain these certifications through the American Heart Association (AHA), as very few employers accept certifications from other organizations.

Obtaining a state RN license before seeking assignments in the state is strongly advised for OR travel nurses. Most employers require a state license verification as a prerequisite to consider a candidate. Delays or denials when applying for a license can result in postponed or canceled assignments. Therefore, planning becomes crucial when determining travel destinations as an OR nurse.

Certain certifications are often required for OR jobs. For instance, Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) certification is often necessary, as many operating rooms handle procedures for both adults and children. Additionally, a small percentage of OR jobs require a Certified Nurse Operating Room (CNOR) certification. First Assist OR nurses may find that facilities increasingly require a Certified Registered Nurse First Assistant (CRNFA) certification.

Travel Nursing Pay for OR Travel Nurses

OR travel nursing falls under the specialty bill rate in agency and hospital contracts. This places OR bill rates in the category of specialties with higher hourly rates. The difference between standard rates and specialty rates typically ranges from $2 to $8 per hour, but it can be higher in certain cases.

Bill rates for OR nurses vary widely throughout the country, ranging from as low as $54 per hour to as high as $77 per hour. In some instances, crisis bill rates can exceed $83 per hour. Consequently, no general pay range can be provided for OR travel nurses. It is essential to have a solid understanding of how pay packages work to negotiate the best compensation.

Hospitals frequently offer completion bonuses and crisis bill rates to OR travel nurses. These additional incentives are due to the higher difficulty hospitals face in finding qualified OR nurses compared to other specialties. As a result, travel nursing as an OR nurse can be more lucrative, especially for those who know how to secure the highest paying travel nursing jobs.

On-The-Job Considerations

OR travel nurses should be aware of certain on-the-job aspects to set realistic expectations. Firstly, a higher percentage of OR jobs require 8-hour shifts. Operating rooms often adhere to standard business hours, which extend to their team members. Though assignments with 12-hour and 10-hour shifts are available, 8-hour shifts are more prevalent for OR travel nurses.

Secondly, OR jobs often involve being on-call. This means that OR nurses must be available during their off-hours to respond to requests from the facility. On-call bill rates typically range between $3 and $12 per hour, with agencies paying nurses anywhere from $2.50 to $10 per hour for on-call hours. Additionally, call-back bill rates may be slightly higher than the standard bill rate, so it is vital to consider this during contract negotiations. It is important to ensure that the contract includes specific clauses outlining on-call and call-back rates.

OR nursing presents numerous opportunities for travel nurses. With a wide range of available assignments and solid bill rates, it is an appealing specialty. However, due to the highly specialized nature of the field, along with various experience and certification requirements, some OR nurses may not qualify for all available assignments. Maintaining a high level of flexibility is crucial for consistent employment as an OR travel nurse.

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