13 operating theatre staff roles (With salaries and duties)

Updated 14 August 2023

If you aspire to work as a member of the operating theatre staff, there are several career paths you might consider. Depending on your background, strengths and goals, you may decide to pursue nursing, become a physician or work as a medical technician. Exploring the different roles may help you understand what's possible and how to choose a role for yourself. In this article, we list 13 operating theatre staff roles, explore their average salaries and review primary duties in each role.

13 operating theatre staff roles

Reviewing various operating theatre staff roles may benefit you if you're choosing your career path and want to pursue a role in medicine. Here are some interesting careers that may give you a chance to work in the operating theatre:

1. Nurse anaesthetist

National average salary: £27,615 per year

Primary duties: A nurse anaesthetist assists the anaesthetist in administering anaesthesia to patients. They participate in each stage of the process, including planning, delivering and maintaining the patient's anaesthetic care. A nurse anaesthetist is often the first person who takes care of a patient after they arrive in the operating room. In addition to handling responsibilities related to planning and administering medication, they talk to patients and help them relax, for example, by explaining the process to them.

Read more: How to become a nurse anaesthetist

2. Operating room manager

National average salary: £28,980 per year

Primary duties: An operating room manager, or OR manager, oversees the work of the operating theatre staff. They evaluate procedures and ensure everyone participating in a surgery complies with facility policies, external procedures and legal requirements. OR managers may also assess patient status and update their medical records on an ongoing basis, even during procedures. In hospitals or medical facilities where an operating theatre is a separate unit, OR managers may prepare, assign and monitor budgets or even coordinate orders and communicate with suppliers or manufacturers.

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3. Theatre nurse

National average salary: £31,677 per year

Primary duties: A theatre nurse monitors patients' vitals during surgeries and procedures. They facilitate communication between members of the surgical staff and prepare the operating room, for example, by sterilising surgical equipment. Scrub nurses may also hand surgeons tools during procedures and help them develop action plans if the staff faces complications during surgeries.

Related: 17 types of nurses (with job descriptions and salary info)

4. Surgical technician

National average salary: £31,930 per year

Primary duties: A surgical technician's role is similar to the one of a theatre nurse and the difference is that technicians usually perform less advanced tasks. Also known as an operating room tech, a surgical technician prepares supplies, disinfects surgical tools and washes patients before procedures. They may also bring patients to the operating theatre.

Related: What's the difference between scrub nurse vs surgical tech?

5. Recovery nurse

National average salary: £32,822 per year

Primary duties: A recovery nurse may support doctors towards the end of surgeries and medical procedures. They're responsible for providing post-op care, including assisting surgeons while stitching up patients. Recovery nurses change bandages and comfort patients while waking up from anaesthesia. They may track their post-op progress, monitor vitals and ensure patients receive the right amount of fluids, medication or food.

6. Surgical assistant

National average salary: £33,846 per year

Primary duties: A surgical assistant works below the surgeon, helping prepare the operating room or pass the instruments. Many medical facilities allow interns to work as surgical assistants, allowing them to learn from experienced surgeons and observe them during procedures. In some instances, surgical assistants may even perform some tasks independently as long as they're under the direct supervision of a surgeon.

Related: FAQ: what GCSEs do you need to be a doctor? (Plus skills)

7. Scrub nurse

National average salary: £34,658 per year

Primary duties: A scrub nurse is responsible for making sure all members of the operating theatre have the resources and time necessary to scrub in before the surgery. They may coordinate the scrub room and work with the OR manager to stock up on supplies. Some scrub nurses participate in surgeries, making sure surgeons, anaesthesiologists, nurses and technicians have all the equipment they use during procedures.

Read more: How to become a scrub nurse

8. Urgent care physician

National average salary: £44,482 per year

Primary duties: An urgent care physician provides immediate medical care to patients in an outpatient clinic. Although it's rarely their usual responsibility, they may work in operating theatres if they determine an emergency surgery is necessary for the patient's health and there's no surgeon available. Urgent care physicians have no regular patients, which makes their day-to-day work highly diverse, as they never know what they may encounter during their shifts.

Related: 14 interesting careers in medicine with duties and salaries

9. Surgeon

National average salary: £78,350 per year

Primary duties: A surgeon performs the surgeries and procedures in the operating theatre. They also manage the surgical team during operations. They usually begin working with patients by reviewing their medical history, providing them with a diagnosis, reviewing x-rays and deciding which procedures are best for their health. Surgeons may play a key role in a patient's post-op care. General surgeons usually perform various surgeries, as they specialise in the alimentary canal and abdominal contents. Some other surgical specialisations they may pursue include trauma, cardio, urology, neurosurgery or paediatrics.

Read more: How many years does it take to become a surgeon?

10. Neurosurgeon

National average salary: £96,024 per year

Primary duties: A neurosurgeon specialises in diagnosing and treating disorders of the central and peripheral nervous systems. Just like other types of surgeons, they work with patients to communicate the diagnosis and prepare them for surgeries. Some conditions that neurosurgeons treat during procedures include strokes, head trauma or tumours. It's one of the most challenging surgical fields, as many neurosurgeons require more years of experience and education to start working independently than their colleagues who pursue different specialisations.

11. Plastic surgeon

National average salary: £96,716 per year

Primary duties: A plastic surgeon specialises in the repair, reconstruction or replacement of skin or other elements of the body. In addition to helping patients with birth defects or those who suffered from serious injuries, plastic surgeons perform enhancement surgeries, like breast augmentation or rhinoplasty. Outside the operating theatre, they conduct pre-op and post-op visits to make sure patients realise the risks of the surgery and receive proper care after the procedure. Depending on the type of work they do, plastic surgeons may work at public hospitals, private clinics or even units that specialise in one type of injury, like burns.

Related: How to become a plastic surgeon in 6 steps (plus tips)

12. Anesthesiologist

National average salary: £97,428 per year

Primary duties: An anaesthesiologist is a physician who specialises in administering anaesthesia to patients during surgeries. Anaesthesia is a state of temporary loss of sensation or awareness, which keeps patients from feeling pain during procedures. Before surgeries, anesthesiologists meet with patients to check their health and measure their height and weight. They use that information to calculate how much medication they require to desensitise them during surgeries. While in the operating room, they continuously measure patients' vitals and ensure they wake up from anaesthesia as soon as the procedure is complete.

Read more:

  • How to become an anaesthesiologist: duties and requirements

  • What is an anaesthesia assistant? (Plus how to become one)

13. Orthopaedist

National average salary: £153,849 per year

Primary duties: An orthopaedist examines, diagnoses and performs procedures to treat injuries and diseases of the musculoskeletal system. Some orthopaedists are generalists, while others specialise in treating certain areas of the body, like the spine, hips or elbows. Working in this role may be highly diverse, as orthopaedists may work alongside medical technology professionals to use technologies to equip patients with bionic prosthetics. Orthopaedists may help patients undergoing rehabilitation or work with physiotherapists to develop exercise plans for patients after surgeries.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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What is an operating theatre nurse and what do they do?

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