10 Questions an Operating Room Registered Nurse Candidate Should Ask the Interviewer

You finally landed the interview for an Operating Room (OR) RN position!  While you are probably over the moon, you may feel nervous.  Relax- your dream career is within reach.  Each nurse prepares for an interview by anticipating the questions that you will be asked.  However, impressing your potential new employer is more than just wowing them with stellar answers.  

Whether you are a brand new nurse or a seasoned nurse looking to change hospitals or specialties, the questions you ask are essential to nailing the interview.  Your inquiries will impact the way your interviewer perceives you and enable you to determine whether this position is a good fit. 

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When you are asking questions, see to it that they demonstrate that you are a hardworking nurse who is interested in learning more about the position.  Make sure that each item presents you in a positive light.

You want to show that you are interested in the job.  These questions will give you a leg up in the nursing hiring process and help you understand your role as a new employee.

1. How much call is each nurse expected to take?

For more prominent hospitals where you are expected to be on call regularly, ask how your schedule will look.  If you feel comfortable asking, you may want to follow up with specifics regarding the hourly pay you will receive while on call. If you do not feel comfortable, you can follow up with Human Resources before accepting the position.

2. “Are there different surgical specialty teams? Am I expected to float outside of my specialty or cross-train to others?” 

Danielle Lange, a career nurse with experience across a wide range of specialties, weighs in.  Some hospitals have operating room teams that float between specialties. Others designate nurses for vascular, neuro, orthopedics, and obstetrics.  Nurses often have a preference for specific types of surgery, and it’s essential to know where you will be spending your time.

Danielle also believes that it is necessary to know what your new career will expect of you.   If you plan to spend your time in general surgery but will be floating to other specialties,  you will have a heads up.  If there is an area that is a dealbreaker, remain positive and open.  Making demands may strike you from the job race.

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3.  Will I scrub or circulate?

Some surgery departments have nurses circulate only, while others are expected to be both scrub and circulating nurses.  Other departments throw pre- and post-operative nursing into the mix.  By asking the question, you will get a glimpse at your job description.

4. Is there a structured orientation? 

Orientation in the operating room can run so many different ways. Before you accept a position, understanding the details can help you decide if this job is suitable.  If you are new to operating room nursing, ideally, you will have six to nine months of orientation.

5. How will I be precepted during and leading up to more complicated cases?

Many hospitals will orient you to the floor, the surgeons, and the surgeries.  If you are carefully precepted every step along the way, you will have the support you need to thrive.  You want to know if you will be alone and forced to sink or swim early in your new job.

6.  “Will I have a designated preceptor?” 

Kristen, an Operating Room nurse, focuses on setting yourself up for success.  “For someone new to the OR, you should start orientation with a single preceptor”. As you become more comfortable in surgery, you may branch out to more surgeries or to observe other RNs scrub or circulating technique. 

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7. “What is the time frame to get to the hospital from your home when on call, or are you expected to stay in-house when on call?”

Christina Jessel is a Registered Nurse in the obstetric operating room.  Surgical nurses are often required to take call to staff the surgery center or hospital in off hours.  “When on call, nurses expected to get to the hospital quickly”, says Christina. However, how fast you must appear may impact your ability to reach the hospital in time.

8.  “Will there be a perioperative class to accompany hands-on training?” 

Juliann Cribbs, a Registered Nurse with over twenty years of experience across surgical nursing and other specialties, has narrowed down the must-ask questions.  This is your opportunity to see what kind of training you will receive.  Some hospitals provide a thorough course that accompanies the clinical experience.

9. “What type of cases do you frequently see?”

Juliann also thinks that you should clarify the type of cases you see.  This will vary related to the kind of cases your emergency department sees, the type of surgeons at your hospital, and the kinds of cases that your team takes. These can vary tremendously based on location (ski country) or specialty (cardiovascular or ortho).

10. Tell me about the teamwork here. 

Being a team player is imperative in the OR.  Seeing where you are needed and wanting to pitch in will make you a valuable future colleague.  However, you want to confirm that your place of employment will also have your back in trying situations, as well.

These questions will impress upon the team that you are eager to learn more about the team dynamic and what your expectations may be.  While asking the right questions will improve your chances to get hired, asking the wrong questions can land your application in the trash.

If you are interviewing with future colleagues or a nurse manager, do not ask questions about salary, improving your schedule, or minimizing your workload.  Human resources can help with salary questions.  Managers and coworkers are looking to see if you will be a good fit with their existing team and showing how flexible you are will prove it.  

Be yourself and inflect your personality into your meeting.  The interviewer should come away seeing your passion, empathy, and organization skills.  

Take care that your questions show how beneficial you will be to their team and the Operating Room.  Just remember, you are interviewing them too!  Use your questions to ensure that you are a mutual fit.

Author’s Bio: Caitlin Goodwin is a Certified Nurse Midwife at the Cleveland Clinic with more than eleven years of nursing experience.

Caitlin Goodwin

Caitlin Goodwin is a Certified Nurse Midwife at the Cleveland Clinic with more than eleven years of nursing experience.

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