Job Description for a Scrub Nurse

Updated February 21, 2017

Scrub nurses are health care professionals who help surgeons during operations. These individuals can work in hospital operating rooms or ambulatory surgical centres and can be registered nurses or operating room technicians. While operating room technicians and registered nurses can perform scrub nurse duties, registered nurses must complete more training but also receive higher pay.


Scrub nurses are responsible for preparing and correctly transferring sterile instruments to surgeons during a surgical procedure. During an operation, scrub nurses also help monitor patients’ conditions. Before an operation, scrub nurses organise sterile drapes and prepare sterile fluids and monitoring machines. When opening packages of instruments, they must make sure sterile instruments do not touch a non-sterile surface. Their chief responsibility is to ensure the surgical field remains as sterile as possible during a procedure, according to


Strong verbal and interpersonal communication skills are important for scrub nurses. These nurses also should be detail-oriented and willing to take direction from a surgeon. They must be sympathetic toward patients and their families as well. In addition, scrub nurses should be able to accurately assess a patient’s condition and be emotionally stable to handle demanding situations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS. These health care professionals must be alert, analytical and use good judgment.


Individuals who want to become perioperative registered nurses, who can perform scrub nurse tasks, can complete three-year diploma programs offered by hospitals or associate's degree programs in nursing that allow students to focus on surgical nursing. In addition, aspiring scrub nurses can complete bachelor’s degree programs in nursing. Nursing programs combine classroom instruction in subjects such as anatomy, physiology and psychology with hands-on clinical experiences in various medical settings.

Students who complete training to become operating room technicians, or surgical technologists, also can perform scrub nurse jobs. Surgical technologists can complete certificate, diploma or associate degree programs in this field. These programs last nine months to two years and are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.


Registered nurses in all states must be licensed. Licensure involves passing the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-RN. Meanwhile, surgical technologists who want to complete scrub nurse duties can seek voluntary certification from the Liaison Council on Certification for the Surgical Technologist or the National Center for Competency Testing by passing an exam.


Employment of surgical technologists was projected to increase 25 per cent from 2008 to 2018, while registered nurses, including perioperative nurses, were projected to have a 22 per cent increase during the same period, according to the BLS. The outlook for these professionals, who can perform scrub nurse duties, was positive as the population grows and ages and as the elderly population was expected to require more surgical procedures. While the median annual wages of registered nurses in May 2008 were £40,592, the figure was £25,181 for surgical technologists, the BLS reported.

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About the Author

YaShekia King, of Indianapolis, began writing professionally in 2003. Her work has appeared in several publications including the "South Bend Tribune" and "Clouds Across the Stars," an international book. She also is a licensed Realtor and clinical certified dental assistant. King holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Ball State University.