Your first day in the OR can sometimes sound like a daunting feat. In this post, we walk you through some of the steps you can take to try to get your surgical rotation and time in the OR off to a good start. Ask questions when you are unsure, be curious, and enjoy your time learning and growing in your knowledge.


  • Introduce yourself to the circulating nurse and scrub tech (and the surgeon, of course, if you haven’t already). Be mindful of any sterile areas and maintain a good amount of distance from them. Have your gown and gloves in hand and ask the scrub tech if they would like you to pop them on the table (if you are comfortable and know how to do so without causing contamination) or if they would like you to open them and pass them off. 
  • Eat breakfast, have snacks, and stay hydrated.
  • If you ever feel faint or lightheaded while you’re scrubbed in, tell someone, perhaps the circulating nurse, and they will have you doff your surgical attire and sit down. It is imperative that you act ahead of this – you DO NOT want to pass out while standing at the operating table because you risk contaminating the surgical field if you do. The operating team will appreciate you speaking up and should help you navigate this uneasy feeling.
  • You should know what cases you will be scrubbing the day/night before this way you can read up on patients and information regarding the procedure to be well prepared. If, for some reason, you don’t know what cases you are assigned, read up on all of them!

Things to know for scrubbing in

  • Above information regarding the patient
  • Indications and contraindications for the procedure
  • Relevant anatomy
  • Potential complications
  • Overall steps of the procedure. It is not necessary to know intricate details for each step.

Assisting in the OR

  • Aid with patient transfer and grab warm blankets when needed
  • Maintain good surgical site exposure
    • Lights
    • Suction
    • Retraction
  • Have necessary instruments ready (e.g., if the surgeon is sewing, ask the scrub tech for suture scissors)
  • Help with OR turnover → wipe down tables, lights, empty trash
  • Ask questions (at appropriate times) regarding the case
  • Debrief after the case with the team. Go over what went right and what could have gone better. What are ways to improve?
  • Follow up if there were any questions asked of you that you did not know. Look up answers and report back.