Theatre nurses work with patients of all ages and primarily within hospital operating theatres and anaesthetic/recovery areas. They may also be involved with certain procedures on wards, clinics or in other specialist areas such as cardiac catheterisation units.
They work as a part of a perioperative team that includes:
Some procedures may involve other staff such as audiologists when fitting cochlear implants or cardiac physiologists when fitting a pacemaker or undertaking cardiac bypass.
Theatre nurses and ODPs can sometimes undertake similar tasks dependent on their skills, training and job description and can develop their careers in similar ways after qualifying. However. the entry routes are different as is registration (a legal requirement to practice in the UK as a theatre nurse or ODP).
Theatre nurses provide high standards of skilled care and support during the 'perioperative' journey. Perioperative care can be divided into interconnected phases:
Preoperative assessment is fundamental to the patient's surgery. It ensures that the patient is fully informed about the risks and benefits, and that they are in optimal health for the surgery.
A preoperative assessment visit creates trust and confidence by providing information about the operation and gives patients the opportunity to ask questions. It reduces the risk of late cancellation by ensuring that all essential resources are available.
During this phase, the theatre nurse will:
Theatre nurses will participate, as part of the operating team, in a number of roles including the 'scrubbed' role, application of aseptic technique (work carried out under sterile conditions), wound management and infection control.
During this phase theatre nurses will:
During this phase, theatre nurses will:
Generally speaking theatre nurses can specialise in a specific area such as anaesthetics, scrub and post-anaesthetic care or rotate through the areas. Rotation is common practice in a day surgery environment.
In addition to the work done during these phases, theatre nurses may be involved in:
More senior operating theatre nurses may work as team leaders. This might involve:
You will need to be a registered nurse to work as a theatre nurse.
Normally after a period of induction you would participate in specialist training relevant to the role and embark on continuing professional development as part of your professional registration requirements. After general qualification there are post basic educational courses to consolidate the specialist skills required in the perioperative environment.
As well as the general skills needed for nursing, theatre nurses require:
A number of courses in operating theatre/perioperative care are available across England and beyond. These are open to nurses already in employment and are at Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE), degree and Masters levels and are often on a part-time basis.
Details of these courses are available on the Association for Perioperative Practice website.
Financial support may be available through your NHS employer.
There is currently a shortage of staff working as theatre nurses so they are in high-demand.
There are several options for theatre nurses to further their careers. These include opportunities in management, education, research and advanced practice. There are also opportunities to work as consultant nurses.
Experienced theatre nurses can also take further training approved by the Royal College of surgeons to work as surgical care practitioners. This training typically takes 2 years, and enables them to undertake certain surgical procedures within clearly specified boudaries, under the supervision of a consultant surgeon.
The Association for Perioperative Practice
Daisy Ayris House
42 Freemans Way
Tel: 01423 881300
The Royal College of Nursing
20 Cavendish Square
Tel: 020 7409 3333