Responsibilities of a circulating & scrub nurse

Written by margo upson
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Responsibilities of a circulating & scrub nurse
Scrub nurse at work (operation nurse image by Andrey Rakhmatullin from Fotolia.com)

Circulating and scrub nurses are two of the most important health care workers in an operating room. Together, they are responsible for anticipating and meeting the needs of the surgeon and patient. During a surgery, each performs her own duties, but they work together to make the procedure as successful as possible.

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Scrub Nurse

A scrub nurse works in the sanitised area of the surgery. He is "scrubbed in," putting on sterile masks and clothing before approaching the surgical station. The scrub nurse hands the surgical tools and other supplies to the doctor performing the operation. A scrub nurse maintains the sanitation of the operating area, making sure everything stays sterile to reduce the likelihood of contamination. Scrub nurses are also responsible for the care of the surgeon. If her glasses are foggy, or if she is sweating, the scrub nurse is in charge of taking care of those problems, allowing the surgeon to continue her work unhindered.

During the surgery, the scrub nurse is also responsible for monitoring the health of the patient. This involves keeping track of the patient's vital signs. If there are potential problems, it is the scrub nurse's job to alert the doctor.

Circulating Nurse

A circulating nurse operates as a go-between for the operating room and the rest of the hospital. She is not scrubbed in. A circulating nurse does the initial assessment of the patient as he is wheeled into the operating room and makes sure that the patient is comfortable. The circulating nurse also assists the surgeon and scrub nurse as they clean up and prepare for the surgery. During the surgery, circulating nurses hand packages of supplies to the scrub nurse as necessary. If something is required from outside of the room, or if the surgeon needs a message passed on to another staff or family member, it falls to a circulating nurse.

After the surgery, the circulating nurse counts opened packages and used supplies, to make sure the numbers add up correctly. This is to ensure that there were no supplies accidentally left inside the patient during the surgery.

Shared Duties

Both scrub nurses and circulating nurses are responsible for keeping the operating room running smoothly. Each is responsible for patient care; the circulating nurse takes care of the patient before the operation and the scrub nurse monitors the health of the patient during the operation. They also share the task of preparing the room for surgery; the scrub nurse prepares the sterile area while the circulating nurse makes sure backup supplies are available in case they are needed.

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