Scrub nurses are almost always found in the operating room, whether they’re preparing the room by gathering the supplies and equipment for a procedure or assisting the surgeon during a procedure by handing off these tools and monitoring the patient. Scrub nurses and surgical technicians may be sounding very similar right about now; however, a scrub nurse differs in the sense that they may provide additional patient care when needed. While they have their own specialties, though, the salary of a scrub nurse WILL be very similar to other types of registered and specialty nurses. For the most part, any significant differences in salary will depend on a nurse’s employer, type of facility, location of the facility, their education level and their experience levels.
How to Become a Scrub Nurse
All types of nurses, whether you’re hitting the ground running in your best jogger scrubs as a new nurse or you’re a seasoned scrub nurse scrubbing into surgery, must be licensed by the state to practice. So, while requirements may vary by state, you’re guaranteed to have to take and pass the National Council Licensure Examination in order to become a scrub nurse. To do this successfully, you’ll need to complete at least a diploma program in nursing. Once you’ve completed your program and obtained your license, you’ll be considered a registered nurse — and well on your path to specializing as a scrub nurse!
From here, you’ll need to obtain a Certified Perioperative Nurse (CNOR) certification or a Certified Nurse First Assistant (CRNFA) certification if you want the status of scrub nurse. It’s important to note, though, that you will be required to put in a certain amount of time and gain a certain amount of experience as a registered nurse before qualifying to take these exams and hold these certifications.
Where Can Scrub Nurses Work?
When we picture scrub nurses, we tend to envision them scrubbing up to enter and assist in a hospital operating room. And while this is completely accurate and covers the majority of scrub nurses, it’s certainly not the only option! Due to the nature of the role, scrub nurses are sure to be found in any facility that performs surgical procedures — which can cover a wide variety of environments, including physician offices, private surgical practices, ambulatory surgery centers, labor and delivery departments and more.
While they can be found anywhere, you may want to ask yourself where scrub nurses are NOT commonly found. Though you’ll also want to ask yourself what the restrictions of your license are and if it’s valid in another location, where you decide to live and work will have a major impact on the security of and demand for your role, as well as your wage. With this in mind, consider:
- The cost of living. Locations with a higher cost of living will likely also see a higher rate of pay.
- The location’s desirability. While you may immediately aim for the most desirable location, it’s always worth considering the less-desirable locations that struggle to keep good nurses, as they often tend to compensate accordingly — whether it be through finances or fulfillment!
- Patient demand/population. Areas with massive populations of patients (such as large cities) come with equally massive demand for more frequent ER visits and OR procedures.
- Nursing shortages. While nursing in a time or a location that’s experiencing a shortage in nurses may point to heavier workloads and more chaotic environments, it may also point to a greater earning potential and sense of achievement.
What Do Scrub Nurses Bring Home?
Other than a sense of pride and feeling of fulfillment, scrub nurses bring home an average of around $95,160 per year. As we’ve seen, though, this will depend on many factors — as a result, the “normal” range of pay for scrub nurses can vary greatly. While this may seem intimidating as an aspiring scrub nurse, it only serves to demonstrate that opportunities for advancement, increased pay and self-controlled earning potential are available!
What Advancement Opportunities Exist for Scrub Nurses?
Scrub nurses have a wide array of career advancement opportunities available to them. These could include roles like circulating nurse (which involves managing surgical procedures, materials and staff), certified registered nurse anesthetist (which revolves around patient anesthesia administration and monitoring), perioperative care manager (which includes supervising, scheduling, mentoring and recruiting of OR staff in the perioperative team) or even potentially nurse educators (which will allow you to direct orientation programs for new nurses, oversee staff development efforts and provide access to continuing education initiatives, depending on the type of facility you’re employed in).
A Day in the Life …
To keep the operating area sterile, scrub nurses rock casual and comfortable scrubs for women or men until it’s time to enter the operating room. Before they enter, though, they don scrub gowns, masks, gloves, booties and various other pieces of personal protective clothing. Before suiting up, scrub nurses wash their hands (all the way up to the elbows) thoroughly with surgical soap — also known as “scrubbing in” and the origin or the scrub nurse title.
Their attention to detail and strict adherence to procedures is crucial when it comes to handling medical instruments, bodily fluids and chemicals and contaminants in the operating room. From here, though, they do just that — operate with extreme accuracy, awareness and alertness in order to both assist the surgeon and monitor the patient. Scrub nurses generally work in shifts of 8-12 hours (though this will depend on a lot of factors) and typically do so during daytime hours. Due to the nature of the job, scrub nurses are often called in during nighttime hours or on weekends and holidays in order to assist in emergency surgeries.
The Scrub Nurse
The aging U.S. population, combined with the growing demand for elective surgery, as well as current long-standing shortages of nurses (with no end in sight), projects an increase in the demand for all types of healthcare professionals and services in coming years — giving way to many opportunities for the scrub nurse. Job growth for all registered nurses, obviously including scrub nurses, is expected to grow by a significant 7 percent between 2019 and 2029. With all of this in mind, it’s safe to say that the path to scrub nursing is as exciting as the path beyond it!