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Interested in a career as a perioperative nurse? These registered nurses, also known as operating room or surgical nurses, work with surgical teams to care for patients before, during, and after surgical procedures. This challenging nursing specialty offers expanding job prospects and competitive salaries.
Continue reading to learn more about perioperative nursing salaries, which states pay the best, and how to gain experience and increase earning potential.
Average Salary for Perioperative Nurses
Because of nursing shortages and retirements and the increasing demand for surgical services, perioperative nurses can expect promising career stability and salary prospects. Perioperative nurse salaries typically run much higher than the $68,620 average salary for all RNs reported by Payscale as of July 2022.
As of July 2022, perioperative nurses made an annual average salary of $76,820 or $34.56 an hour. However, compensation varies considerably with education level, geographical location, type of employer, and duties. Experienced perioperative nurses can expect to earn the highest salaries. Professionals with 10 or more years of experience earn an average hourly pay of over $37.
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The Highest-Paying States for Perioperative Nurses
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide state-specific data for RNs with perioperative specialties. However, their earnings reflect the average compensation reported for all RNs, which range from $59,450 in the bottom 10th percentile to $120,250 and over for the top 10%.
Because perioperative nurses tend to enter the field after gaining clinical experience as RNs, acquiring certification, or completing residencies, they may earn higher-than-average RN salaries.
Earning potential for all RNs, including perioperative nurses, also depends on location. According to the BLS, California, Hawaii, and Oregon pay the highest RN salaries. California boasts the top ten paying metropolitan areas in the country for RNs, with salaries ranging from $124,000 in the Hanford-Corcoran region to over $155,000 in the San Jose area.The top five states or districts for RN salaries are California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, D.C., and Alaska.
Payscale salary data indicates that perioperative nurses earn the highest pay in Los Angeles, San Diego, and the Texas cities of Houston and Dallas.
4 Ways to Increase Pay As a Perioperative Nurse
A bachelor's or graduate degree or a certified perioperative nurse (CNOR) credential can lead to more job opportunities with higher salaries. Perioperative nurses may also receive salary bumps by moving into administrative positions or by taking positions as travel nurses. Perioperative nurses who want to increase their earnings and advance professionally can explore the following options.
Become a Certified Perioperative Nurse
Nurses earn certifications to validate specialized knowledge, stand out among other job candidates, and increase their earning power. Certifications demonstrate dedication to the field and advanced skills development.
The CNOR credential, administered by the Competency & Credential Institute, is the only accredited certification for perioperative registered nurses. Each candidate must have a valid RN license and a minimum of two years of perioperative experience, with at least 1,200 hours in an intraoperative setting. According to a report by the Association of periOperative Nurses (AORN), CNORs earned $1,700 more than RNs, on average, each year.
Obtain Your BSN
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and most employers view the bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree as the minimum educational level for nursing practice. The BSN also provides a strong academic foundation for graduate nursing degrees and advanced practice nursing roles.
Registered nurses with BSNs or graduate degrees almost always earn more than RNs who possess two-year associate degrees in nursing (ADNs). RNs who already have ADNs can complete RN-to-BSN programs, which typically take two years or less. Many of these programs offer online formats to accommodate the needs of working nurses.
Gain Experience in Perioperative Nurse Management
Perioperative nurses can increase their salary potential by gaining experience in financial and operational management, human resources, and other administrative roles. As more perioperative nurses near retirement age or choose to leave the profession, employers will need skilled RNs to administer staff, programs, and budgets in surgical care settings.
The certified surgical services manager (CSSM) credential can help perioperative nurses qualify for managerial positions as administrative team leaders, surgery support coordinators, and directors of surgical services.
Become a Perioperative Travel Nurse
According to AORN, perioperative nursing ranks as the sixth-most in-demand nursing specialty in the United States. RNs in this nursing role can increase their earning potential by taking temporary positions as travel nurses, especially in medically underserved areas or regions facing nursing shortages. Travel nurses can earn above-average salaries and benefits compared to staff nurses.
Frequently Asked Questions About Perioperative Nurse Salaries
What are the most valuable skills for perioperative nurses?
Perioperative nurses work in fast-paced, stressful surgical settings. In addition to the skills acquired during their nursing training and a thorough knowledge of surgical procedures, they must be consistent team players, patient-focused, and detail-oriented. These professionals must maintain their composure and keep emotions under control in high-risk and volatile situations.
How does experience increase earning potential for perioperative nurses?
Most RNs, including perioperative nurses, earn more money as their work experience increases. According to Payscale data from July 2022, entry-level perioperative nurses with a year or less experience earn an average hourly rate of $28.95, compared to $33.96 for mid-career nurses with 5-9 years of experience.
Perioperative nurses with 10-19 years on the job earn $37.39 an hour, while those with over 20 years of experience report hourly wages of $40 and above.
Where can new nurses gain experience in perioperative nursing?
In response to the growing demand for perioperative nurses, some healthcare facilities have begun to offer nurse residency programs to strengthen surgical care skills, such as the Cleveland Clinic Nursing School.
These residency programs typically last 6-12 months, admitting both new and experienced RNs into paid positions while training. RNs who complete these residencies gain increased specialized competencies over other nurses, which can lead to broader employment and salary prospects.
What career advancement opportunities are available for perioperative nurses?
Perioperative nurses can advance in their careers by completing BSNs and CNOR certifications. These nurses can also transition into positions as advanced practice nurses by earning master's or doctoral degrees and certification as perioperative clinical nurse specialists, nurse educators, and nurse managers.
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