17 Operating Room Assistant Interview Questions and Answers

Learn what skills and qualities interviewers are looking for from an operating room assistant, what questions you can expect, and how you should go about answering them.

Operating room assistants, also known as surgical technicians, sterile processing technicians, and surgical technologists, are responsible for preparing the operating room for surgery, ensuring that all the necessary surgical supplies are available, and maintaining a sterile environment during surgery. They also assist the surgical team during surgery by passing instruments and other supplies to the surgeon.

If you’re looking for a job in the operating room, you’ll need to be able to answer some common interview questions. In this guide, we’ll provide you with some questions and answers that you can use to help you prepare for your interview.

Common Operating Room Assistant Interview Questions

Are you comfortable working in an environment where there is a lot of noise and activity?

Operating rooms are busy places, and the interviewer wants to make sure you can handle a fast-paced environment. In your answer, explain that you enjoy working in an active workplace and have experience doing so.

Example: “I am very comfortable working in a noisy operating room. I’ve worked in several hospitals as an OR assistant, and I find it energizing to be around people who are passionate about their work. I also think it’s important to communicate clearly when there is noise, so I always speak up if someone asks me a question.”

What are your greatest strengths as an operating room assistant?

Employers ask this question to learn more about your personality and how you would fit in with their team. They want someone who is positive, hardworking and dependable. When answering this question, think of a few strengths that relate to the job description.

Example: “My greatest strength as an operating room assistant is my attention to detail. I am very organized and always make sure all equipment is sanitized before each procedure. Another strength is my ability to multitask. In my previous position, I was responsible for monitoring anesthesia levels while also making sure the patient’s vital signs were being recorded correctly. I enjoy challenges like these.”

How would you react if a surgeon asked you to do something that was outside of your job description?

An interviewer may ask this question to assess your ability to communicate with surgeons and other members of the operating room team. Use your answer to show that you can respectfully disagree with a surgeon or other medical professional when necessary, but also emphasize that you are willing to do whatever is best for the patient’s health.

Example: “If I disagreed with a surgeon about something in the operating room, I would first try to calmly explain my reasoning. If they were still insistent on their course of action, I would politely tell them that I could not follow through with their request because it was against hospital policy. However, I would make sure to let them know that I am happy to assist them in any way that does not violate our policies.”

What is your experience with surgical equipment?

Operating room assistants often need to know how to use surgical equipment. Employers ask this question to see if you have experience with the specific equipment they use in their operating rooms. Before your interview, research what types of equipment the hospital uses and make sure you can describe how to use it. If you don’t have any experience using that type of equipment, explain what other types of equipment you are familiar with.

Example: “I’ve worked as an operating room assistant for five years now. During my time here, I’ve learned how to use all of the equipment we have in our operating room. For example, I am very comfortable working with a variety of different tools like scalpels, scissors and forceps. I also understand how to operate many different machines, including the anesthesia machine, suction machine and patient monitors.”

Provide an example of a time when you had to remain calm under pressure in the operating room.

The interviewer may ask this question to assess your ability to remain calm in stressful situations. This can be an important skill for operating room assistants, as they may need to assist surgeons during emergency procedures or when a patient’s condition changes suddenly. In your answer, try to describe how you used your problem-solving skills and remained focused on the task at hand.

Example: “When I was working as an operating room assistant, one of my patients had a sudden change in their blood pressure that caused them to go into cardiac arrest. The surgeon immediately began performing CPR while another team member called 911. As the only other person in the room with the surgeon, I knew I needed to stay calm and focus on assisting him. I helped him move equipment out of his way so he could perform chest compressions more easily. Then, I assisted him by counting aloud until the paramedics arrived.”

If a surgeon asked you to do something that was outside of your job description, how would you respond?

An interviewer may ask this question to learn more about your decision-making skills and how you handle conflict. When answering, it can be helpful to provide an example of a time when you disagreed with a surgeon but still completed the task they asked for.

Example: “In my previous role as operating room assistant, I had a surgeon who would often request that we perform tasks outside of our job descriptions. For instance, one day he requested that I assist him in stitching up a patient after surgery. While I was uncomfortable doing so, I knew that if I didn’t help, the patient wouldn’t receive proper care. So, I assisted the surgeon by handing them supplies while they stitched.”

What would you do if you noticed a mistake on a surgical instrument just as the surgery was about to begin?

This question can help the interviewer determine how you respond to mistakes and challenges in the workplace. Showcase your problem-solving skills by describing a time when you noticed a mistake on an instrument just before a surgery began, what steps you took to fix it and how you ensured that the patient was safe during the procedure.

Example: “In my previous role as operating room assistant, I once noticed that one of the surgical instruments had been switched out for another type of tool. I immediately informed the surgeon so they could switch out the incorrect instrument for the correct one. The surgeon then used the new instrument to perform the surgery successfully.”

How well can you follow written instructions?

The interviewer may ask you a question like this to assess your ability to follow written instructions and perform tasks in an operating room. To answer, think of a time when you had to read through detailed instructions before performing a task or completing a project. Explain that you can use the same skills to complete tasks as an operating room assistant.

Example: “In my previous role as an operating room technician, I often worked with surgeons who gave me verbal instructions while they were working on patients. However, I also needed to refer to written instructions for some procedures. For example, I once assisted a surgeon who was performing a complex procedure where he would give me verbal instructions but then write down additional information on a piece of paper so I could refer back to it if necessary.”

Do you have experience working with anesthesia providers?

The interviewer may ask this question to learn more about your experience working with anesthesia providers. Operating room assistants often work alongside anesthesiologists, surgeons and other medical professionals who administer anesthesia to patients before surgeries. Show the interviewer that you have experience working with these types of professionals by describing a time when you worked with them in the operating room.

Example: “I’ve had the opportunity to work with several different anesthesia providers throughout my career as an operating room assistant. I find it helpful to work with multiple anesthesia providers because each one has their own unique style of administering anesthesia to patients. This helps me understand how to best support the provider during surgery.”

When performing clean up duties, what is the maximum amount of time you would wait before re-cleaning an area?

The interviewer may ask you this question to determine how attentive you are and whether you can follow instructions. In your answer, explain that you would wait no more than five minutes before re-cleaning an area if it was not already clean.

Example: “If I were performing clean up duties in the operating room, I would make sure that any messes or spills were cleaned within five minutes of them occurring. If a spill wasn’t cleaned after five minutes, I would go ahead and clean it myself so that the surgeon didn’t have to stop what they were doing.”

We want our operating room assistants to be proactive about preventing accidents and ensuring the safety of our patients. Please describe a strategy you would use to prevent a surgical accident.

An interviewer may ask this question to assess your ability to take initiative and prevent accidents. In your answer, explain how you would use your problem-solving skills to identify potential safety issues before they occur.

Example: “I once worked with a surgeon who was very fast paced in the operating room. One day, he accidentally cut open his patient’s draping while reaching for a scalpel. I noticed that he had dropped the scalpel on the floor and quickly picked it up so he could continue the surgery without interruption. He thanked me later for preventing him from having to stop the procedure.”

Describe your experience with computerized surgical equipment.

The interviewer may ask this question to learn about your experience with computerized surgical equipment. This is because operating rooms are becoming increasingly more technologically advanced, and the employer wants to make sure you have the skills necessary to work in their operating room. In your answer, describe any previous experience using computerized surgical equipment. If you do not have any experience, explain that you would be willing to learn how to use it if needed.

Example: “I have worked in an operating room before where we used computerized surgical equipment. I am familiar with the basic functions of these systems, such as how to operate a touchscreen or mouse. However, I am open to learning more about the specific features of the system at this hospital.”

What makes you the best candidate for this position?

Employers ask this question to learn more about your qualifications and how you can contribute to their team. Before your interview, make a list of all the skills and experiences that make you an ideal candidate for this role. Focus on highlighting your most relevant abilities and soft skills.

Example: “I am highly organized and detail-oriented, which makes me a great fit for this position. I understand the importance of following sterile procedures in the operating room and have experience working with other healthcare professionals to ensure everyone is following protocol. My communication skills are also strong, so I can clearly relay information from surgeons to nurses and other assistants.”

Which surgical procedures are you most familiar with?

This question can help the interviewer determine your level of experience in operating rooms. It’s important to be honest about your experience, but you should also highlight any skills or knowledge that may make you a good fit for the role even if you haven’t worked as an OR assistant before.

Example: “I’ve assisted with many different types of surgeries, including orthopedic procedures, emergency surgeries and cosmetic surgeries. I’m comfortable working with patients who are awake during their surgery and those who are under general anesthesia. I have some experience assisting surgeons with more complex procedures, such as open-heart surgery.”

What do you think is the most important aspect of being an effective team player in the operating room?

Teamwork is an essential skill for operating room assistants. Employers ask this question to make sure you understand the importance of working together with your team members in the OR. When answering, explain what makes teamwork so important and how you can contribute to a successful team.

Example: “I think communication is the most important aspect of being an effective team player in the operating room. Teammates need to be able to communicate effectively with each other at all times. If we’re not communicating properly, it could lead to mistakes or even patient injuries. I always make sure that my teammates know they can come to me if they have any questions or concerns. I also try to offer solutions to their problems when I notice something isn’t going right.”

How often do you perform routine cleaning duties?

The interviewer may ask this question to learn more about your attention to detail and organizational skills. They want to know how often you perform routine cleaning duties in your current role, so they can determine if you would be able to do the same in their operating room. Your answer should include a specific number of times per week or month that you clean your current workspace.

Example: “I clean my workstation at least once per day. I also help with deep-cleaning procedures twice per week. For example, we have scheduled days where everyone cleans their workstations thoroughly.”

There is a glitch in the computer system just as the surgery is about to begin. What would you do?

This question is a great way to test your problem-solving skills and ability to stay calm under pressure. Your answer should show the interviewer that you can think quickly, make decisions and act decisively in high-pressure situations.

Example: “I would first check if there was an alternative computer system available. If not, I would ask the surgeon what they would like me to do. Depending on their instructions, I might have to cancel the surgery or find another qualified assistant to help with the procedure. In either case, I would try my best to keep everyone informed about the situation.”


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