Essential Nurse Equipment & Clothing To Wear In the Operating Room

Dive into all the proper equipment and clothing used by nurses and doctors in the operating room. Read up on all the tips, tricks, and advice for starting your OR career:

Most nurses have to wear a uniform of sorts, typically scrubs and comfortable shoes. However, there are stricter clothing requirements for nurses who work in operating rooms. The OR is the scene of some of the most vital and delicate healthcare procedures, and it’s essential to keep the area free from bacteria, germs, and anything else that could compromise an operation.

As an OR nurse, you will probably have strict clothing requirements provided to you by your employer. However, you may have some leeway in choosing your footwear, caps, and/or scrubs when you’re not in the operating room.

We’ve compiled a list of essential clothing items for OR nurses, which you can use when you’re purchasing your work wardrobe. We’ve also included a summary of the key pieces of equipment in an OR. You probably won’t be responsible for shopping for those things, but you need to know how to operate and keep them clean.

Essential OR Clothing for Nurses

The clothing you wear is vital to maintaining a properly cleaned and efficient workspace environment. Nurses in all positions need to be conscious of what they decide to wear, but clothing choices can be especially important for those who work in the operating room. As you’re building your wardrobe for working in the OR, don’t forget these key elements.


Many healthcare providers wear scrubs, which were adopted as the standard uniform for the OR sometime in the mid-1900s. Although scrubs were originally designed for doctors in the OR, they are now standard in many sectors of the healthcare industry because they are inexpensive, comfortable, and easy to wash.

So what exactly are scrubs? This term refers to an outfit usually consisting of loose pants with a drawstring waist and a pullover shirt with short sleeves and a V neckline. Most scrubs are made of cotton. Although scrubs were originally white and then light green, today you can find scrubs in a wide variety of colors and patterns.

Scrubs are comfortable, low-maintenance, and affordable, but that’s not the only reason doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers wear them. Medical scrubs are made of thick fabric that’s designed to protect the wearer from a patient’s bodily fluids. Additionally, scrubs have large handy pockets that allow for a wide range of motion, which is essential in many OR situations. Finally, wearing scrubs makes it easy for both patients and colleagues to identify you as a healthcare provider.

Related Article: Best Scrubs For Nurses


Gloves are personal protective equipment (PPE) that are required in the OR and many other healthcare facilities. Wearing gloves on your hands helps protect both you and your patient from sharing germs and other contaminants. You should always wear gloves in the OR and when you are working with patients. Even if you aren’t working directly with patients, you should wear gloves if you have any cuts, scrapes, or blemishes that may secrete bodily fluids.

Thoroughly clean your hands before putting on your gloves. You should do the same once you remove them. Make sure you know the proper way to safely remove contaminated gloves. You should pull the first glove off by sliding it over your hand so it turns inside out and the contaminated surface is not exposed. Then, hold that glove in your other hand while you take off the other glove, turning it inside out over itself and the first glove. Gloves should be thrown away in a biohazard container.

Nursing Shoes/Boots

Nurses may have a choice of footwear depending on their daily routine. For example, nurses who have desk jobs or those who conduct wellness checkups may be allowed to wear shoes of their choice. You should choose footwear that has a flat sole and a closed toe. Make sure your shoes are comfortable for long hours of standing and walking.

In the OR, however, nurses may be required to wear waterproof boots. Many surgeons do this to protect themselves from blood and other bodily fluids that could contain dangerous contaminants. OR nurses may choose to wear operating theater boots as well.

Surgical Caps/Masks

All OR personnel must keep their hair contained to prevent contamination. Even recently washed hair can contain lots of bacteria. Plus, having hair hanging in your eyes can prevent you from doing your job properly. Surgical caps are designed to cover your head and prevent your hair from falling into your eyes or compromising a sterile environment.

Most OR personnel need to wear face masks as well. Masks cover the mouth and nose to prevent the transfer of harmful microorganisms between the patient and the doctor or nurse. A well-fitted face mask is essential in the OR.

Essential Nursing Equipment & Clothin...

Technology and Equipment Go a Long Way

While you may not have to buy this equipment yourself, the tools and technology you use in the operating room can be what makes or breaks the final result of an operation. As such, it’s important to understand how these pieces of equipment work and how to keep them clean. These are some of the most important pieces of equipment in an operating room.

Lighting and Space

Having adequate light is vital during an operation. The doctors and nurses in the OR need to be able to see exactly what they are doing, especially during intricate procedures using cameras or small incisions. Lighting needs to be bright and placed in the proper orientation within the OR space to avoid shadows.

Surgical lighting is unique and designed specifically for this application. Most surgical lights use LED or halogen bulbs that emit pure white light. LEDs offer a few unique benefits: less heat and precise color control.

Ensuring proper space for necessary equipment, monitors, and personnel is also important. There are also requirements for each hospital based on ventilation and necessary square footage to handle certain operations and conditions.

Operating Tables

Also called surgical tables, these pieces of furniture support the patient during an operation. A surgical table is specially designed to keep the patient in place. Many tables accommodate accessories that allow surgeons and nurses to position the patient’s body in the correct way for the operation.

Surgical Displays

A surgical display is used in many minimally invasive surgical procedures that use tiny cameras. Most modern displays provide a high-definition resolution. The display allows the OR team to visualize the patient’s anatomy as well as monitor the procedure as it progresses. These displays are often large, and they can be mounted on the wall or the arms of surgical lights.

Sinks and Cleaning Equipment

Keeping the operating room clean is vital to avoid contamination that could harm the patient and the operating team. ORs have special “scrub sinks” that are designed to make it easy for doctors and nurses to thoroughly wash their hands and forearms. Most healthcare facilities have thoroughly documented cleaning procedures designed to make sure all OR equipment is kept free of bacteria and other contaminants.

Vital Knowledge for OR Nurses

It may seem like a minor concern, but the clothing you wear as an OR nurse is very important. You need to make sure that your clothing is comfortable, safe, and appropriate for the unique setting of an operating room. Make sure you choose scrubs,, shoes, and personal protective equipment (gloves, masks, and caps) with care.

Equipment is another vital component of a well-functioning operation room. While surgical nurses generally aren’t involved in choosing or purchasing this equipment, it’s important to understand how lights, tables, and surgical displays work. You should also be well-versed in how to keep these important pieces of equipment clean.

You may have learned about clothing and equipment during your nursing education, but it’s important to keep up with new technologies. You’ll likely need to have a lot of on-the-job experience before you’re ready to assist or manage an OR procedure. To move your career forward, keep your training and certifications up-to-date.

Grow Your Career With Essential Certifications

Working as an OR nurse can be an extremely challenging career, but it can also be personally fulfilling. If you’re preparing to launch or grow your nursing career, make sure you keep key certifications (ACLS, PALS, and BLS) up to date. You need to recertify every two years.

At eMedCert, we make it easy to get your certifications or recertifications. Our PALS, ACLS, and BLS courses include all the essential algorithms you need to study to pass the certification exam. For example, our PALS certification program covers pediatric post-resuscitation care, pediatric cardiac arrest, pediatric tachycardia, pediatric bradycardia with pulse/poor perfusion, pediatric BLS, and more. The ACLS and BLS courses are just as thorough.

With eMedCert, you can prepare and study for your certification test on your own time. All our course material is online, as is the exam. Work at your own pace and take the test when you’re ready. If you don’t pass, you can retake it as many times as you want. Save money by bundling your ACLS, BLS, and PALS certification courses.

Sign up for your ACLS, PALS, and BLS online courses TODAY!