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A Day in the Life of an NHS Theatre Nurse

31st March 22

The NHS is part of the fabric of the UK, and some of the most important professionals at the healthcare frontline are Nurses. Now more than ever, Nurses are revered for their passion and dedication to caring for those who need it most.  

If you are inspired by adult nursing and you want to be part of the everyday efforts of the nursing community, then we can help you achieve your career goal. Before you begin your journey, let us give you a taste of what to expect when working in adult nursing. 

Firstly, there are plenty of different roles under the umbrella of adult nursing, ranging from an Acute Settings Nurse and A&E Nurse to Intensive Care Nurse and Practice Nurse. In this instance, we are focusing on the crucial role of a Theatre Nurse. 

While no two days are ever exactly the same in Theatre Nurse jobs, we have outlined a typical day that you may experience if you opt to work in this profession in a hospital setting.  

Theatre Nurse Roles and Responsibilities 

Before we delve into the daily tasks of a Theatre Nurse, we need to consider the roles and responsibilities involved in this profession. When it comes to Theatre Nurse jobs, there are two main roles that you need to be aware of, and they consist of: 

  • Scrub Nurse 
  • Circulating Nurse 

If you become a Nurse for the operating theatre, then you will likely rotate between these two roles. A Scrub Nurse is responsible for ensuring that the instruments are sterile and ready for use during surgery. When the Surgeon requires certain instruments during surgery, it will be your job as an Operation Theatre Nurse to hand them over.  

As a Circulating Nurse, it will be your responsibility to ensure that the surgery runs smoothly. Your priority will be meeting the patient’s needs and making sure that the scrub team has everything they need. Any information that needs to get to the Surgeon will be provided by the Circulating Nurse to the Scrub Nurse on duty. 

So, let’s consider what a typical day could be for a Scrub Nurse about to go on duty… 

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Inspect the Operating Theatre

As part of your Theatre Nurse training, you would have been informed of how crucial it is to make sure that the operating theatre is fit for purpose. As a Scrub Nurse, you will firstly need to check which theatre you have been positioned at and then carry out a series of checks. The three main elements of the inspection are the following: 

  • Operating lights 
  • Suction 
  • Diathermy 

Without the use of all three elements, the surgery will not be able to go ahead. While doing your checks as an Operation Theatre Nurse, you must report to estates any faults or elements that are not working correctly. 

After carrying out all the relevant checks, the role of an Adult Nurse in this position will be to look over the operating list and ensure that the correct equipment for surgery is listed. Scrub Practitioners in your team would check the drugs with the Operating Department Practitioner (ODP) while another member of your team will check the fridges and make sure that all relevant paperwork has been done. 

Brief with the Team 

After completing the inspection, the next step in most Theatre Nurse jobs will be to attend a team briefing, which includes the Anaesthetist, Surgeons, ODP, and the scrub team. The briefing will consist of discussing each patient and the care they require.  

During this briefing, you can field any questions to the Surgeon, with these questions likely to be around the kit you have and whether it is appropriate for the level of care the patient requires. The briefing will also involve the Anaesthetist informing everyone how the patient will be put to sleep. 

Once all the information has been provided and questions answered, the Team Leader will allocate an emergency role to each staff member involved. This is to make sure that every base is covered in the event of an emergency.  

Send for the Patient 

Once the briefing is over, your role as an Operation Theatre Nurse will be to arrange the arrival of the patient for surgery. You and the team are responsible for attending to the patient, so you will either send an orderly or call the ward to start the process. 

The skills of an Adult Nurse include organisational attributes, so you will need to make sure that you check the patient’s details, including: 

  • Name 
  • Date of birth 
  • Hospital number 
  • The last time they ate anything or had a drink 

After the patient has been sent for, you will get ready for surgery, and during this time the Circulating Nurses on shift will open and prepare the skit for you to use. Your team will also be responsible for informing the Surgeon and anyone else involved in the operating theatre that the patient has been sent for. 


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Move the Patient to Theatre 

When the patient arrives in the operating theatre, they will be anaesthetised. As soon as they enter the room, you and the rest of the team will stop immediately to go through the timeout checklist. This involves the following checks: 

  • Check that the correct patient has been sent by inspecting their wristband 
  • Check the consent form 
  • Check the pre-operative paperwork 
  • Check that you’re carrying out the correct procedure 

After completing the timeout checklist, the surgery can begin. At this point, the Circulating Nurses will keep records of all operating times and ensure that you as the Scrub Nurse has what you need. You will be taught in Theatre Nurse training that the sign out must be completed at the end of surgery, and the questions you will likely have to answer include: 

  • Has the operation been completed to the requirements laid out in the consent form? 
  • Are the instruments, swabs, and needle counts correct? 
  • Are there any samples or specimens? 
  • Are there any concerns about the patient ahead of recovery? 

An Operation Theatre Nurse will usually complete the sign out prior to the patient leaving for recovery. 

Patient Sent to Recovery 

The Scrub Practitioner will handover the patient along with the Anaesthetist and ODP, and then the remaining members of the team will clean the operating theatre so that it is ready for the next patient. 

If no more surgeries are planned for that day, then you and the team will do a deep clean of the theatre using bleach. All clinical waste and linen bags should be disposed of, while equipment should be sterilised ahead of its next use. 

How Do You Become a Theatre Nurse? 

So, does the role of an Operation Theatre Nurse sound like something you would like to do in your career? Well, to achieve this goal and prepare for Theatre Nurse jobs, you will need to gain relevant qualifications. 

To become a Nurse in the UK, you will need to achieve a nursing degree that has been approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). To reach this phase of Theatre Nurse training, you will need to meet the degree entry requirements, which may include the following: 

  • At least five GCSEs at grade C/4 or above in English, Maths, and a Science subject 
  • At least three A-levels or Level 3 equivalent qualification 


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Many individuals opt to train to become a Nurse later in life after questioning, ‘is being a Nurse a good career?’ Perhaps you are seeking a career change but are unsure about how to be a Theatre Nurse if you don’t have the qualifications to get to university. Well, we here at learndirect have a solution. 

We boast a portfolio of GCSEs and Level 2 equivalent Functional Skills, all of which you can learn online. As the UK’s leading online learning provider, we help learners achieve their career goals by offering regulated online courses. So, if you don’t have the GCSEs you need to get on to a nursing degree, then we can help! 

Moreover, we provide a collection of A-level courses that you can study but you may want to go down a different route, one that will get you prepared for university and give you academic and industry knowledge. As an alternative to A Levels, we provide the Access to Higher Education Diploma (Nursing)

When searching for courses to become a Nurse, this is one that can help you get a spot at university to study an approved nursing degree. You will explore the roles and responsibilities of a Nurse, as well as mental health, psychology, and health and well-being. 

There are many benefits to enrolling on Access to HE Nurse courses, UK learners, including the following: 

  • 100% online – The Access to Higher Education Diploma (Nursing) is delivered entirely online, so you can make your way through the course modules and assignments from the comfort of your own home 
  • No term time restrictions – You have two years to complete your Access to HE Diploma, and you can begin studying as soon as you enrol! You won’t have to wait for term times, but you will be given assignment submission deadlines, which will be outlined in an Individual Learning Plan 
  • No exams – Unlike A Levels, you do not have to pass an exam to achieve your Level 3 diploma. Instead, you will be tasked with a series of online written assignments, which will be based on the topics covered in your modules 
  • Get university ready within 1 year – While you may have two years to achieve your Access to Higher Education Diploma, the average time it takes our learners to complete this Nurse course is 9-12 months. This is significantly less than the time it takes to achieve two or more A Levels in a traditional setting 


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After You Have Become a Nurse 

Once you have achieved your degree via an approved programme, you will be registered with the NMC. For those of you wondering how to be a Theatre Nurse, then you should know that your learning journey doesn’t stop at degree level! 

You will be required to undergo specialist Theatre Nurse training after a period of induction. This will include taking nurse courses. UK professionals will be qualified as an Operation Theatre Nurse once they complete this portion of training. 

Study Your Way to Becoming a Nurse 

If you have decided that ‘yes’ is the answer to the question, ‘is being a Nurse a good career?’ then what are you waiting for? Now you have a taste of what the day-to-day operations of Theatre Nurse jobs involve, you can start studying your way to achieving your career goal. 

To learn more information about our Nurse courses, UK residents can speak to one of our Course Executives by calling 01202 006 464. Alternatively, contact us online or click below to find out how to begin the journey to becoming a Nurse. 


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