Job Description

Understanding The Role Of The Perioperative Nurse 

What Do Surgical Nurses Really Do?

The role of the circulating nurse encompasses many skills and responsibilities. First, let’s define the term “circulator”. This person is an RN who is not scrubbed into the sterile field, versus a nurse who may be scrubbed in working directly with the surgeon. The circulator is responsible for a variety of things during surgery. Initially, the room set up, equipment in the room, that all team members involved are there and ready, counting with the scrub tech, gathering medications and needed supplies and much more. It is their responsibility to know the patient’s history, check labs, review orders, understand exactly what surgery they are having, and reading the history and physical. They are also the contact point between the surgeon and the rest of the team members in the room. Communication and organization are essential skills for the circulator to have.

Prior to the case starting, they are in charge of reviewing the consents, interviewing the patient, speaking with family or friends and making sure that everything and everyone is prepared and comfortable with moving forward. 

The most important role of the circulator is to be the patient’s advocate. During surgery, they are unable to speak for themselves and they are trusting the nurse to do what is best for them. The entire OR crew works together for the best outcome and to produce outstanding patient care.

According to AORN, the role of the circulator is as follows:

“The goal of perioperative nursing practice is to assist patients to achieve a level of wellness equal to or improved from the preoperative level, and to support the patients’ family members and significant others during the perioperative period.”(

What Do You Like Most About Circulating?

surgery operating room

What Do You Feel Is Your Most Important Role As The Circulator?

Answers from experienced nurses working in a variety of types of surgery.

perioperative nurse in surgery

J.W., RN 8 Years

Hands down, being the patient's advocate. Our patients rely on us to care for them while under anesthesia and I take it very seriously.

operative nurse in surgery

S.D., RN 14 Years

Prioritizing and keeping everything running smoothly. There are many moving parts during surgery and it's our role to keep them all moving together.

OR circulator in surgery

T.B., RN 5 Years

Anticipating the needs of your team and the surgeon. It makes a huge difference in how the case goes if you can pay attention to what is happening, anticipate your role, and stay one step ahead.