What Is a Cardiovascular Operating Room Nurse?

A cardiovascular operating room (CVOR) nurse works as part of the surgical services and operating room teams that treat open-heart (cardiovascular) patients. CVOR nurses assist with patient care, ensure that sterile procedures are followed during surgery, necessary equipment and medications are available for the operating room team and that a patient's safety is assured at all times.

Becoming a Cardiovascular Operating Room Nurse

Once a nurse earns a nursing degree and secures an RN license, obtaining hands-on experience in critical care, cardiovascular treatment and/or operating room procedures is the next step. Most CVOR nursing positions require RNs to also hold the Basic Life Support Certification (BLS) from the American Heart Association or American Red Cross. In addition, many CVOR nursing job openings prefer an RN to hold the CNOR Certification for perioperative nurses from the Competency & Credentialing Institute, the Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support Certification (ACLS) and/or the Pediatric Advanced Life Support Certification (PALS) from the American Heart Association.

A typical job posting for a cardiovascular operating room nursing position would likely include the following qualifications, among others specific to the institution:

  • Active RN license, BSN degree preferred
  • Minimum 1-2 years professional nursing experience, operating room experience preferred
  • Hold the Basic Life Support Certification; hold the CNOR, ACLS and/or PALS Certifications preferred
  • Excellent attention to detail needed in ensuring patient safety and quality monitoring
  • Strong organizational skills needed in coordination of care across the CVOR

To search and apply for open CVOR nursing positions, visit our job boards.

What Are the Education Requirements for Cardiovascular Operating Room Nurses?

Most CVOR nurses hold a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing degree, and all hold an active RN license, which can be achieved through passing the NCLEX-RN. Most hospitals prefer cardiovascular operating room nurses to have prior operating room experience, as well as hold a BLS Certification, ACLS and/or PALS Certification and the CNOR Certification for perioperative nurses from the Competency & Credentialing Institute.

Are Any Certifications or Credentials Needed?

Most open CVOR nursing positions require candidates to hold the BLS Certification from the American Heart Association or American Red Cross. Many employers also prefer candidates to hold the CNOR Certification for perioperative nurses offered by the Competency & Credentialing Institute. In order to be eligible for the CNOR exam, a nurse must hold a current unrestricted RN license, be currently working full- or part-time in perioperative nursing in the areas of research, education, administration or clinical practice, and have completed two years and 2,400 hours of experience in perioperative nursing. Some employers may also prefer candidates who hold advanced life support certification, such as the ACLS or the PALS Certifications offered by the American Heart Association.

Where Do Cardiovascular Operating Room Nurses Work?

As the name suggests, CVOR nurses work in hospital operating rooms and specialize in cardiovascular (open-heart) surgeries. In addition to staff positions, many traveling nursing organizations post and fill temporary CVOR positions. A travel nurse is hired to work in a specific location for a limited amount of time.

What Does a Cardiovascular Operating Room Nurse Do?

A cardiovascular operating room nurse specializes in the care of cardiovascular patients before, during and following surgical procedures. The CVOR nurse participates in the sedation of patients and assists physicians during the procedure by administering medications, monitoring vital signs and applying dressings. The CVOR nurse coordinates the entire operating room with respect to sterility, cleanliness and availability of functioning equipment and supplies, as well as provides critical quality control to ensure the patient's safety.

What Are the Roles and Duties of a Cardiovascular Operating Room Nurse?

  • Conduct and document a thorough assessment of a patient's medical status upon admission and throughout the patient's course of treatment
  • Assist in the development and implementation of an individualized treatment plan for each assigned patient
  • Assess, plan and evaluate the nursing care of the patient before, during and after a surgical procedure
  • Participate in the care of patients receiving sedation and assist physician during procedures
  • Administer prescribed medications, apply dressings and monitor vital signs during procedures
  • Ensure that sterile procedures are followed throughout the course of surgery, necessary equipment and medications are available for the operating room team, record progress and outcomes of surgical procedures and ensure proper handling of specimens
  • Provide quality control and ensure patient safety at all times


Cardiovascular operating room nurses typically work during the day, Monday through Friday, most often 10-hour shifts, 4 days per week or 8-hour shifts, 5 days per week.

However, many cardiac surgeries are emergent and require nurses to be on call outside of pre-scheduled surgical hours. Due to the urgent nature of surgical intervention, nurses often take turns being on-call, in order to provide care at a moment’s notice 24/7, 365 days a year.

The cardiovascular operating room nurse usually prepares the operating room and ensures sterile procedures are followed. The nurse may clean the surgical incision site, assist with sedation, and provide medication during the procedure. The CVOR nurse may also assist with operating cardiopulmonary bypass machines.

Common surgical procedures CVOR nurses may assist in include:

  • Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG)
  • Heart valve repair or replacement
  • Insertion of a pacemaker
  • Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) insertion
  • Maze surgery
  • Aneurysm repair
  • Heart transplant
  • Insertion of ventricular assist device (VAD)
  • Total artificial heart insertion (TAH)
  • Transcatheter structural heart surgery

Cardiovascular operating room nursing is not for the faint of heart. Nurses must be able to:

  • Keep up in a fast-paced environment while assisting in high-acuity surgical operations
  • Be confident in emergency situations
  • Have the ability to think fast and respond accordingly
  • Adapt and remain graceful in high pressure situations
  • Possess excellent communication skills and strong attention to detail

The CVOR nurse is often the eyes and ears of the surgeon, they need to continuously monitor the patient and alert the team to any concerns.

Cardiovascular Operating Room Nurse Salary & Employment

Operating room registered nurses with open-heart skills make a median salary of $80,508 with a range of $50,351 – $102,887. Factors affecting a CVOR nurse's salary include geographic location and number of years' experience.

While a highly specialized field, experienced cardiovascular operating room nurses are in demand across the country suggesting a bright career outlook for nurses interested in building a career in operating room nursing.

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