What is a Circulating Nurse? | Job Description & Role

A Circulating Nurse is a registered nurse who provides clinical and administrative support during surgical procedures. The role of a Circulating Nurse is to serve as the main link between OR and anesthesia during surgery. They coordinate all preoperative, intraoperative, and post-operative activities in the OR while ensuring patient safety.

What is a Circulating Nurse?

A Circulating Nurse (RN) Registered Nurse supports the Operating Room team during surgery. As part of the Peri-Operative Nursing Team, the Circulating Nurse is responsible for managing all aspects of care related to the patient’s safety and comfort before, during, and after surgery. They work closely with surgical staff to ensure the operating room is safe and efficient.

What does a Circulating Nurse do?

The Circulating Nurse ensures that all equipment, medications, and supplies are readily available to provide the best care possible to the patient. They are also responsible for monitoring the patient’s vital signs throughout surgery and recorders of procedure notes. The Circulating Nurse provides direction to all members of the surgical team as well as any request from the surgeon.

The Circulating Nurse is also responsible for supporting and assisting family members throughout the surgery. They provide information about preoperative and post-operative instructions, answer procedure questions, and help ensure patient safety before, during, and after surgery.

The role of the Circulating Nurse is essential, as they are responsible for helping to ensure patient safety throughout the peri-operative period.

What Unit is Circulating Nurse?

The Circulating Nurse is part of the Peri-Operative Nursing Team and works in the Operating Room. The Peri-Operative Nursing Team supports patients, families, physicians, and other healthcare professionals throughout surgical care, from preoperative assessment to post-operative follow-up. The team also works closely with anesthesiologists, surgeons, and other specialists to maintain patient safety throughout the peri-operative period.

How to Become Circulating Nurse?

Educational Eligibility

To become a Circulating Nurse, one must complete an accredited nursing program and obtain a license from their state nursing board. Once the nurse is licensed, they must gain peri-operative nursing experience. This kind of experience can be gained through working as a scrub or circulating nurse in the operating room.


In addition to gaining experience, nurses may pursue additional certification in Peri-Operative Nursing. This voluntary certification is available through the American Board of Peri-Operative Nursing (ABPON). Certification demonstrates other knowledge and skill sets related to peri-operative nursing and patient safety. It can also enable one to work in specialized areas of the peri-operative setting.

Required Skills
  • Expertise in all aspects of peri-operative care
  • Knowledge of the operating room environment and related equipment
  • Ability to respond quickly in changing or challenging situations
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Ability to prioritize tasks and work efficiently under pressure
  • Ability to maintain patient safety at all times.
  • Ability to provide support and assistance to family members during surgery.

Pros and Cons of Becoming a Circulating Nurse


  • For those who thrive in fast-paced environments, the job can be gratifying.
  • Provides possibilities to learn and develop skills in various settings.
  • Offers excellent job security with a wide range of employment options available.
  • Can be beneficial for career advancement as one gains more experience.


  • Can be stressful and demanding at times.
  • Working long hours is often required.
  • May require regular on-call shifts.
  • Dealing with emotionally charged situations can be difficult.

Salary of Circulating Nurse

The salary of a Circulating Nurse can vary depending on many factors such as experience, specialty area, and location. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for Registered Nurses in 2020 was $73,300. However, the salary range for Circulating Nurses is usually higher than that of other nurses because of their specialized knowledge and skills. Additionally, nurses may earn additional income through overtime pay or bonuses.


What is the difference between a circulating nurse and a scrub nurse?

A scrub nurse provides direct patient care during surgery, including preparing the operating room and sterile technique. A circulating nurse is responsible for managing all aspects of care related to the patient’s safety before, during, and after surgery, monitoring the patient’s vital signs and recording procedure notes.

What is the role of circulating nurse after surgery?

The Circulating Nurse’s role after surgery is to provide support and assistance to family members and provide information about preoperative and post-operative instructions. The nurse also monitors the patient’s vital signs, ensures all equipment works properly, and assists with other patient care-related needs.

Can an RPN be a circulating nurse?

Yes, a Registered Practical Nurse (RPN) can be a Circulating Nurse. RPNs may need additional training or certification to work as Circulating Nurses. All nurses must be aware of their scope of practice and adhere to the standards of care set out by regulatory bodies.

What is the hardest in nursing?

Pharmacology, Microbiology, and Anatomy & Physiology are widely recognized as challenging subjects. Students may have difficulty in Cardiology, Chemistry, or Mental Health.

Final Words

It is vital to remember that being a Circulating Nurse requires compassion, patience, and humility. This job needs a lot of responsibility and demands respect for the people you will care for. You are responsible for providing efficient patient care and ensuring all policies and procedures are followed correctly. It is an opportunity to not only make an impact on patients but also grow professionally within the nursing field.

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