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What is Medical-Surgical Nursing?

Medical-surgical nurses know how to do everything from clean a wound to insert drains and hand IVs and usually work in hospitals. Before nursing had specialties, every nurse was a medical-surgical nurse. Medical-surgical nursing has its roots in the old-fashioned wards in which almost all patients were kept. These nurses had to know how to do everything from clean a wound to insert drains and hand IVs. Today’s medical-surgical nurses follow this tradition, caring for a wide variety of patients with many different ailments.

Medical-Surgical Nursing

Medical-surgical nursing is a specialty sub-set of nursing that involves caring for adults in a variety of healthcare settings. A medical-surgical nurse uses a broad skill-set throughout the day, often performing vastly different procedures during a shift. Many nurses begin their career in medical-surgical, or med-Surg, nursing because it reinforces the many different skills that a nurse might use during her career.

Nurses who choose to stay in medical-surgical nursing do so because they enjoy the challenge of caring for patients with so many different needs and conditions, as well as the variety and ever-changing needs of the patients. It is never boring! As a specialty, medical-surgical nursing has its own organization, the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nursing, which supports nurses seeking or already holding medical-surgical certification (AMSN).

What Education is Needed for Medical-Surgical Nursing?

In addition to the education needed to become a registered nurse, a med-surge nurse can receive certification from the Medical-Surgical Nursing Certification Board. In order to gain this certification, a nurse needs to:

1. Hold a valid RN license in a state
2. Work for two years as an RN
3. Log a minimum of 2000 clinical med-surg hours in three years
4. Complete 30 hours of continuing med-surg education classes

After five years, a med-surg nurse will need to meet the continuing education requirements or re-certify. Seeking this certification can help increase salary and job opportunities.

What Does a Medical-Surgical Nurse Do?

A medical-surgical nurse can encounter a massive assortment of adult patients, from ambulatory to completely bedbound, and must treat each patient according to their varied needs. Because there is not a typical patient, a med-surg nurse must be knowledgeable in many different medical tests and procedures. During a single day, a med-surg nurse might care for a patient recovering from surgery, a patient getting ready for surgery, and a patient newly diagnosed as diabetic, along with five others. Because of the wide-ranging patient requirements, a med-surg nurse must always keep up with new technology, medication, and procedures that might be necessary. As with most types of nursing, situations and patients change rapidly, so a med-surg nurse must be ready for a fast-paced and dynamic work environment.

There are many different professional settings for a med-surg nurse, and these also influence the day-to-day routine and responsibilities (Layne). A med-surg nurse can work in many different healthcare arenas, including surgical centers, clinics, urgent care, inpatient units, nursing homes, long-term care, and others. Each setting brings its own challenges and rewards (AMSN).

How Much Does a Medical-Surgical Nurse Make?

As with many other fields of nursing, medical-surgical nursing is projected to increase in the next ten years even faster than average, between 17 and 26 percent, which means increased job opportunities. Currently, med-Surg nurses make between $57,000 and $63,000 a year, but as demand increases, salaries will likely increase.


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