Surgical Nurse Salary

What is a Surgical Nurse?

surgical nurse income 2016Becoming a surgical nurse makes you the backbone of the surgical team, working in a challenging and dynamic environment. The possibilities for a career in surgical nursing are rewarding and diverse. You can specialize in all or any aspects of surgery along with working in sub-specialties like cardiac or pediatric surgery. They are also referred to as operating nurses or perioperative nurses. A surgical nurse is also a registered nurse with a specialty in surgical nursing.

Job Description of a Surgical Nurse

When working as a surgical nurse it will be your responsibility to educate the patients about the procedures they are having done before the surgery along with teaching them about self-care after the procedure is done. They may also have to adjust the treatment plans. The surgical nurse is responsible for different functions before, during, and after an operation.

As a surgical nurse, you will normally work in the surgery department in 1 of 3 job descriptions.

  • Circulating nurse – in this capacity you will observe and manage the operation from a broad perspective. This is so you can create a relaxing and secure experience for the patient. You will be the patient who brings the patient to the operating room. You will be responsible for monitoring the patient’s condition during the operation in order to make sure that the patient has the best results possible.
  • Scrub nurse – in this capacity you will work directly with the surgeon during the operation. It will be your responsibility to ready and hand the instruments to them along with helping to monitor the condition of the patient. You will work inside the sterile area of the operating room. This means you must wash your arms and hands with special disinfectants and wear sterile surgical scrubs including a hair covering, booties on your shoes, gloves, and mask.
  • RN first assistant – in this capacity you have undergone more education and training than the other two surgical nurses positions. This is so you can aid the surgeon during surgery by handling and cutting human tissue, using medical instruments on the patient for various tasks, regulate bleeding, and suturing wounds. You will usually be the most highly trained member of the nursing staff in the operating room.

In general, a surgical nurse must be prepared to work with patients who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening condition. You will also admit and discharge patients during the day while monitoring several patients in the critical care unit. You must always be able to respond quickly to trauma and emergencies.

Other duties that a surgical nurse performs is keeping the patient and their families informed about the side effects of the surgery will be, what they can expect after the surgery, and during the recovery period how long it will take and what precautions are needed to be followed. You will do all the necessary preparations for each surgical procedure such as making sure there are enough medical supplies in the operating room along with all the necessary surgical tools. You will also make sure that all the machines and devices are functioning correctly. During the surgery, you will keep an eye on the patient’s vital signs, and if you notice any problems, you will address them accordingly.

How to Become a Surgical Nurse?

The educational requirements to become a surgical nurse will vary according to the professional level of the nurse. They are a licensed registered nurse who holds a diploma, associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing. In some programs to become a licensed register nurse, there are programs that will allow you to special in surgical nursing. There are numerous ways in which you can become a surgical nurse, but first it is mandatory that you are a registered nurse. You could obtain a 2-year associate degree that offers a specialty in surgical nursing. There are diploma programs that will take 2-3 years to complete and are generally conducted in a hospital. If you want a more thorough education, after getting your associates degree, you could further your education and get a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. This is a 4-year program that includes 2 years of supervised clinical practice in a healthcare facility or hospital. Once you graduate from a nursing program that is state-approved with at least an associate degree, you ought to pass the National Council Licensure Examination RN (NCLEX RN), which is a national licensing test to become a registered nurse. You have to obtain a license in the state where you are going to work.

Once you have met the experience and education requirement as a registered nurse, you can then pursue your professional credentials in surgical nursing. One such credential is the Certified Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse offered by the Medical-Surgical Nursing Certification Board.

Surgical nurses have the opportunity to become a patient educator or nurse anesthetist through further education and training. You may also determine that you want to go further in your education to become operating room directors. In this position you would manage staffing, budgeting, scheduling along with other business aspects of the operating rooms in the facilities. When you further your education, you can earn a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or even a doctoral degree.

Work Environment and Schedule

Generally, a surgical nurse will work in inpatient healthcare facilities or general care hospitals but today surgical nurse are being offered more job opportunities. This is due to the advances in surgical technology and cost-effective trends in health care. These two things can give you the opportunities to work physicians’ offices that provide surgical procedures like endoscopy, cosmetic surgery, or surgical imaging or in ambulatory surgery centers that do outpatient surgery.

Most surgical nurses will work a day shift schedule and some in the evening because the majority of surgeries are elective, which means they are not urgent in nature but are necessary medically. These types of surgeries are normally scheduled during the day but may continue into the evening hours. If you are employed by an inpatient hospital, you could even work overnight. Some surgical nurses even work on-call and come to work as needed. Many shifts could be 8 to 12 hours or more, depending on the surgery being done and how many surgeries that the surgeon you are working for has scheduled. On a light day, you may even work less than 8 hours.

The operating room where you will be serving will be clean, sterile, and bright. It will also be on the cool side, so the surgeons do not sweat unnecessarily and drop their sweat into the open wounds of the patient.

No two days are alike when working as a surgical nurse. Yes, there are routine things that must be done each day before, after, and between each surgery but there will be different types of surgeries, different patients each with their own needs, different families to talk too, etc. Some days all surgeries will go according to plan while there may be a day in which something goes awry, and a patient dies on the operating table.

Pros and Cons of Being a Surgical Nurse

Considering the career of being a surgical nurse may sound cool but there are many things that you should think before you decide on this career and start your training. One important thing that you have to know about yourself is if you can stand the sight of blood. Can you also stand the sight of possibly looking inside a human body at their organs, or watching a baby being born via cesarean section? You should also sit down and make your lists of what is good and what is bad about being a surgical nurse.


  • Most shifts are day shifts working Monday thru Friday. So, generally, you won’t have difficulties related to your working hours. Day shifts are always preferable, even if the people involved are in healthcare. While emergency room, and other facilities may be the job of some doctors, it’s not something that can easily be handled.
  • Having the ability to help people who are ill to get better. It’s sometimes a great knowledge that you have truly helped numerous people get better, after you’ve seen how ill they were, suffering from different conditions. It’s a rewarding that can’t be compared to money or to similar benefits.
  • If working as a pediatric surgical nurse, you could help bring a new life into the world. Especially if you’re a woman, then you will surely enjoy the sight and the happiness involved when babies are born. If you have your own children, then you understand even better, but even if not, you already get a training and share the happiness of many young mothers who are giving birth. At times, you will be able to witness unique cases of special birth, such as twins.
  • Surgical nurses make up one of the largest groups of professional nurses so there will always be a job in that field. Stability is really an issue of the 21st century, even in the medical fields. People are getting trained, they follow higher education, because they know there’s demand. Still, this demand can’t grow in any field, so being a surgical nurse it’s good to know that you have an almost-guarantee that you are going to be hired. That means it’s a great career choice!
  • You have the choice to further your education and move up in your career. While even the basic salaries are good, you can always improve and know more and get paid more as you grow. It’s nice to have a career that’s constantly expanding.
  • As a surgical nurse, you have the choice of these capacities you can work in. Not all jobs offer free choice, so it’s great to have the liberty to decide.


  • A shift could be as long as 12 hours or more at times
  • You are on your feet almost the entire shift
  • Depending on how close the surgeries are scheduled you may find little time to eat or go to the bathroom
  • Possibility of having blood splattered on your clothes

Surgical Nurse Salary

Nurses, in general, are in high demand and if you are a registered nurse and have a specialty field such as surgical nurse you are going to be more in demand. From 2012 to 2022 the growth rate for registered nurses specializing in surgical nursing is expected to rise 19% according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The average annual salary for a surgical nurse working in a surgical or general medical hospital was $69,490 in 2015.Being a surgical nurse, you are one of the highest paying jobs among all nursing salaries. The average starting salary for an entry-level position as a surgical nurse is $26,000 but as you gain more experience and further your education, the salary will only increase.

In addition to the basic salary there is the great benefits package that can include:

  • Paid vacation and sick days along with paid holidays
  • Overtime pay
  • Paid medical and life insurance that may include the family and there could also be vision and dental insurance included
  • Pension
  • 401k
  • Uniform reimbursement
  • Continuing education reimbursement
  • If you an on-call surgical nurse you may get reimbursed for cell phone expenses along with travel mileage
  • Long and short disability
  • Profit sharing
  • Bonuses paid quarterly or yearly based on the number of years of experience

There could be other bonuses but what they could be would depend on where you are working. In the United States, two of the highest paying states are Georgia and Connecticut where they make an average annual salary of $57,000.

Salary of a Surgical Nurse in 2016

In 2016, the average yearly salary for a surgical nurse was $69,000 but this is most likely an entry-level position salary and it can vary according to where you are working, the experience you have, the benefits, and the state and city where you work. The job growth is expected to grow by at least 19% so there is always going to be more jobs opening in other cities and states that you can transfer too. The only thing is that you would have to become licensed in the state you are moving too.

Surgical Nurse Salary in Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom

  • In the UK, the average annual salary of a surgical nurse is £15,884 to £40,384 but what the exact salary would be is based on the number of years of practice. For example with 1 to 4 years of experience the average annual salary would be £10,304 to £38,395 with a bonus of £318.31 for each year you have worked.
  • In Canada, the average yearly salary is C$45.588 to C$88,359.Of all nurses working in Canada, approximately 10% receive an average salary of C$46,000 while 25% receive an average annual salary of C$62,000 and 90% have an average annual salary of C$90,000.They can also collect an average yearly bonus up to C$2,517.
  • In Australia, the average annual salary of a surgical nurse is AU$40,693 to AU$80,416.In Australia, the highest paying state is Victoria with an average annual salary of AU$28,596 to AU$94,467 followed by New South Wales as AU$17,947 to AU$76,864.

Conclusion on Surgical Nurse Salary

As mentioned, being a registered nurse specializing in surgical nursing, also referred to as a surgical nurse, are one of the highest paying positions of all nursing positions. The entry-level average annual salary may only be $26,000 but as you gain more experience along with furthering your education it can increase drastically to over $60,000.Depending on where you are working and the number of years of experience, you could earn upwards of $85,000 a year. When looking at the average annual salaries of Canada, the UK and Australia it seems that their salary for a surgical nurse is much higher, but you have to take into consideration the exchange rate. For example, if a surgical nurse is making an average annual salary of AU$76,864, in the United States it would be only $55,775, which is about average for a surgical nurse in the United States. Looking at these figures after using the exchange rate it shows that it would not be in your best interest to move to Australia for a job. In addition, your licenses and certificates would most like not be good in Australia so you would have to abide by their licensure and certification rules.

There are also great advancement opportunities when working as a surgical nurse. Since it is an area that you can specialize in once you become a registered nurse, it would be easy to return to being just a registered nurse or specializing in another area.