How to become an orthopaedic scrub nurse: Connor’s story

Meet Connor, a student orthopaedic scrub nurse who assists surgeons while they operate. Part of our Bitesize world of work series.

I love my job because I work as a small but very significant part of a much bigger team. I get to work with some of the most amazing doctors and nurses.

What is your role?

I work as an orthopaedic scrub nurse for the Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. Orthopaedics is a department that focuses on bones, joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles. I work in a theatre where surgeries take place and am responsible for checking and preparing implants and surgical instruments ahead of a procedure. I also assist the surgeon during operations, which requires a lot of organisation and concentration.

What does a typical day look like in your job?

My days can be made up of both planned and unplanned surgeries. A "planned" surgery happens when a patient has been booked in for an operation like a hip or knee replacement. An "unplanned" surgery or "trauma" happens when someone has been injured unexpectedly.

Did you always know what you wanted to do for work?

No, I hadn’t always wanted to be a nurse! At secondary school, I chose Business Studies, History, French and Religious Studies for my GCSE options and originally liked the idea of being a flight attendant but then I changed my mind. So, at college, I studied a diploma in Health and Social Care and, as part of the course, I went on a placement to the same care home that my grandad lived at. It was then that I realised I was really passionate about caring for people. I think caring and compassion are great characteristics to have if you’re thinking about a career in nursing.

You don’t have to decide what career you want straightaway when you’re young... as long as you stay focused and determined… you’ll get to where you want to be.

What's your journey been to get to where you are now?

After college, I moved to Chester to start a nursing degree at uni. I'm dyslexic and, 18 months into the course, I was starting to feel overwhelmed by the academic, non-practical side of things so I decided to take a break. During that time away from uni, I got a job as a theatre support worker at my local hospital and worked there for two years. It was there that I discovered how much I enjoy working in a surgical environment and being involved in operations, so I decided that being a scrub nurse specifically was the right choice for me. With the support of my colleagues, I went back to uni and finished my degree.

What do you like best about your job?

The best part for me is the satisfaction I get from helping people. I think the NHS is appreciated more now because of the coronavirus pandemic. I also love that every day at work is different and packed with variety – I'm constantly learning new things because no two procedures are ever the same. I'm new to my role so having a supportive team around me who I can learn from is something I'm super grateful for.

Fun fact

I got a surprise one day at work when I saw a baby being born through a cesarean section (C-section) delivery. I don’t usually work around babies, so it was a completely new experience for me!

What to expect if you want to be a nurse

  • Nuse average salary: NHS band 5-6. Read more about NHS bands. Salaries will differ in private healthcare.
  • Nurse typical working hours: 37 to 42 hours per week

What qualifications do you need to become a nurse?

  • Typical entry requirements:
    • University: Most people qualify by studying a degree in Nursing. You first need to decide which area of nursing you'd like to work in: adult nursing, children's nursing, learning disability nursing, or mental health nursing. Some "dual field" degrees allow you to study in two of the fields. Full-time courses usually take three years. You may be able to join a nursing degree on the second year of a course if you already have a degree in: a health-related subject; Psychology; Life Sciences, or Social Work
    • Apprenticeship: You may be able to do a "registered nurse degree apprenticeship (RNDA)", combining academic study and on-the-job training. You will need to secure a position as an RNDA and your employer will release you to study at university part time. Most RNDAs take four years, but it could be less if you have relevant previous learning and experience. Keep an eye on the NHS jobs website and the Government find an apprenticeship page for RNDA opportunities
    • Armed forces: You can train for a career as a nurse in the Armed Forces. Check out the Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy websites for more information
    • Nursing associate: Nursing associates work alongside health care support workers and registered nurses in both health and social care. You could start out as a nursing associate and work towards training as a registered nurse.

You'll find it helpful to get some paid or voluntary experience in social care or healthcare work before you apply for nurse training.

This information is a guide and is constantly changing. Please check the National Careers Service website for the latest information and all the qualifications needed. (Sources: LMI for All, National Careers Service, NHS Health Careers).

Find out more

For more information about careers in nursing, you can check out:

For careers advice in all parts of the UK visit: National Careers service (England), nidirect (Northern Ireland), My World of Work (Scotland) and Careers Wales (Wales).

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