Perioperative nurses, often referred to as surgical nurses or operating room nurses, play a crucial role in the care of surgical patients. Aside from their obvious role as assistants during surgical procedures, they also provide direct patient care before and after the surgery. Working in all surgical settings, from private clinics and physicians' offices to the largest of hospitals and universities, perioperative nurses rank in the upper half of registered nurse incomes.
The Association of periOperative Registered Nurses, or AORN, conducts periodic surveys of its members' income. Its 2011 survey showed staff nurses averaging $64,900 in facilities with 10 operating rooms or fewer, and $69,600 per year in facilities with more than 10 operating rooms. At the First Assistant level, nurses averaged $73,200 at small centers and $77,700 at larger ones. Nurse educators and staff trainers earned an average of $77,400 per year in smaller facilities, while their peers in larger centers averaged $79,100. Managers and team leaders averaged $79,900 per year in small facilities and $84,900 in larger ones, while directors and associate directors of nursing averaged $95,200 in small centers and $127,800 in large centers.
The AORN survey found that general or community-owned ambulatory surgical centers, or ASCs, were the lowest-paying setting workplaces for surgical nurses, at an average of $60,900 per year. University-operated ASCs were the highest-paying workplace surveyed, paying a mean $74,500 per year to surgical nurses. Community hospitals paid an average of $66,500, while university hospitals averaged $73,200. Location also plays a role. Respondents in the Pacific region were the highest-paid, followed by those in New England and the mid-Atlantic states. Nurses in rural settings averaged $9,400 per year less than their peers in urban centers. On average, those paid hourly earned $3,000 less than their salaried counterparts.
The AORN figures show perioperative nurses to be among the top half of all registered nurses for compensation. The May 2011 Occupational Employment Statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a median income of $65,950 for registered nurses. That's the point at which half earn more, and half earn less. The average salary for RNs was $69,110 per year. Half of those surveyed earned between $53,770 and $80,390.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the number of jobs for all registered nurses will increase by 26 percent between 2010 and 2020, faster than the average for all occupations. Demand for perioperative nurses should be similarly strong, as the bureau notes that surgeries are increasingly performed in physicians' offices and smaller outpatient clinics. This creates additional openings for perioperative nurses. Smaller facilities also offer more predictable hours than the 24-hour environment of a hospital.