20 Essential OR Nurse Interview Questions

Anyone who has undergone surgery knows it takes a team of experts for everything to go well. Among these experts are operating room (OR) nurses, who take care of patients before, during, and immediately after surgical procedures.

Hiring these specialized nurses requires calculated interview questions to see if they would be a positive addition to the surgical team. Let’s take a look at the role of an OR nurse, the skills required to become one, and essential interview questions for an OR nurse.

What Is the Role of an OR Nurse?

OR nurses specialize in perioperative care for patients who are entering, receiving, or recovering from surgery. Many times OR nurses work as a circulating nurse who advocate for patients under anesthesia, ensure surgical procedures are adhered to, and manage the overall nursing care in the OR. In other cases, OR nurses serve as a scrub nurse who is trained in handling sterile items and instruments during surgical procedures.

OR nurses serve a multidisciplinary role as they support patients, surgeons, and surgical teams throughout all stages of surgery. This requires a set of ideal skillsets including:

  • Team player: A central characteristic of perioperative care is teamwork to ensure patient safety and a successful surgery. Surgeons rely on scrub nurses to exchange surgical instruments as needed and circulating nurses to keep the team updated on patient vitals, which means this role needs good camaraderie and communication.
  • Calm under pressure: Operating rooms are high-pressure environments. OR nurses need to remain calm under pressure and rely on healthy coping strategies during stressful surgeries.
  • Flexibility: Some ORs operate 24/7 and must always be staffed, meaning there are many patients and surgery types OR nurses need to be prepared for. On top of that, emergency or critical care situations can shift the surgery schedule and require OR nurses to be adaptable and prioritize their patients accordingly.

OR nurses often work in hospital operating rooms, doctor’s offices, or in outpatient centers where they have constant contact with patients of all ages, surgeons, and their surgical team. It’s not uncommon for OR nurses to work with new patients every day, which requires someone who can be both personable and adaptable while also working in a chronically fast-paced environment.

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20 OR Nurse Interview Questions

Just like with any other RN role, it’s important to get a sense of the individual’s background and experience. Always begin the interview by asking baseline nursing questions to understand a candidate’s prior work experience, general strengths, and goals for the future. From there, it helps to ask OR-specific questions such as the ones listed below.

General OR Nurse Behavioral Interview Questions

  • Share your previous operating room experience as either a circulating or scrub nurse. What strengths do you bring to the surgical team?
  • If this is your first OR role, what specifically attracted you to a career in surgery?
  • What additional training, education, or certifications have you gotten to advance your medical knowledge in the operating room?
  • How would your nursing colleague and surgical teams describe working with you?
  • What steps do you take to establish rapport with your surgical teams?
  • Has there been a time when you volunteered to step into a leadership role? What is your leadership style, and what were the results of your leadership?

Skills-Based OR Nurse Interview Questions

  • How would your patients describe you as an OR nurse?
  • Share the steps you take to prepare a patient and their family for pre-operation and post-operation.
  • What actions do you take to establish and maintain trust with your patients throughout their surgical journeys?
  • How do you handle patients or patient families who make unreasonable care requests?
  • Have you had to advocate for a patient’s medical care when they were not able to? How did you navigate their advocacy with medical staff and their family? What was the response?
  • What are your successful OR time-management strategies?
  • How do you manage your time successfully while operating in a high-stress, fast-paced environment?
  • What coping strategies do you implement during high-pressure situations, like performing duties as an OR nurse?
  • How do you receive feedback and implement it when it comes from a supervising physician or surgeon?

OR Nurse Scenario Interview Questions

  • If you are a circulating nurse and disagree with the care being provided by the surgeon at hand, how would you address the concern while also prioritizing the patient’s well-being?
  • Describe a situation where you didn’t know the answer at work and the steps would take to find the information you needed.
  • If you have several patients’ needs competing for your time, what steps do you take to ensure that all patients are receiving top-level care even when your attention is divided?
  • What steps would you take to communicate complex medical terms to a patient who has low medical literacy or doesn’t speak English as their primary language?
  • Share a time when you felt overwhelmed by your patient load. How did you handle the situation?

Hire Your Next OR Nurse with Insight Global

Successful OR nurses can be the glue that keeps an operating room running smoothly. Finding the right candidate requires finding an individual who can juggle compassionate patient care with fast-paced decision-making. Asking the 20 essential OR nurse interview questions can help guarantee that hiring managers are finding the right candidate for their facilities.


Find your next OR nurse with Insight Global! Questions? Call us toll-free: 855-485-8853