Perioperative nurses are those members of the patient's health care team that work in tandem with surgeons and the staff of surgical departments. They assess, plan, and carry out a variety of elements of the surgical treatment, including providing patient care before, during, and after surgery. These health care professionals comprise an invaluable segment of the surgical team, though their contributions are often overshadowed by the work of the surgeons themselves.
The circulating nurse is responsible for ensuring various assessments are conducted prior to the surgical procedure; they are a manager of sorts of the entire surgical process, and while they are not part of the team physically involved with the surgery, their role is vital to positive surgical outcomes. Scrub nurses are part of the perioperative nursing team; they are responsible for the instruments used during surgical procedures. They establish a sterile field for the surgery to take place; aid other surgical team members with caps, masks, gloves, and gowns; and physically provide surgical instruments to the surgeon during the procedure, among other things. The RN first assistant works alongside the surgeon, aiding with things like controlling bleeding and suturing wounds.
Still other perioperative nursing professionals, like the Post Anesthesia Care Unit Registered Nurse who provides care to patients as they awaken from being anesthetized, work with patients as they recover from surgery using technical and assessment knowledge and skills to monitor vital signs, document data obtained from testing and monitoring, and adjust treatment protocols based on patient responsiveness. Perioperative nurses also provide the patient and his or her family with education on appropriate home care; this can be as simple as wound care or as complex as management of symptoms and the incorporation of various types of therapies.