Becoming a Medical Surgical Nurse

A medical surgical nurse cares for adult patients who are suffering from a disease or multiple co-morbidities. This nurse uses broad knowledge and skills for patients across the adult lifespan. Traditionally, the practice settings for this type of nurse are hospital wards and nursing floors. These nurses have been originally general nurses caring for all types of patients, but have developed to become specialists in their own right.

The field of medical surgical nursing is considered the foundation of nursing practice. In the past, most nurses in the hospital worked in wards rather than today’s specialized medical units. So in that sense, every nurse then was a general nurse caring for all types of patients suffering from any injury or disease possible.

This area has since evolved from a stepping-stone or entry-level position to an adult nursing specialty. But hospitals and employers often want new nurses to get some experience in the medical surgical nursing floor first before being assigned to other specialty units. They recognize that well-rounded nurses with medical surgical backgrounds tend to become the best specialists.

Before you can start your nursing career, you must complete an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) degree from an accredited institution. Then hurdle the NCLEX exam so that you can get your coveted registered nurse license.

You will be able to apply what you learned from medical surgical classes in nursing school. As a newbie nurse, chances are you will be assigned to a ward or nursing floor for several months to get some experience. Welcome this chance to learn and expand your skills. These skills will prove useful as you move on to other specialties further down the road.

You can work in a wide variety of settings because your skill set is valuable regardless of work area. You may work in hospitals, clinics, acute care units, surgical centers, skilled nursing homes, long-term care facilities and home health care. Patients can range from ambulatory to acute. You will provide direct care before and after surgery and will be assessing patients based on your mastery of body systems, fluids and electrolytes and diagnostic tests. Additionally, you are expected to advocate for the patient and educate them about their health.

You will perform a lot of tasks and responsibilities. These include monitoring vital signs, starting IVs, administering feedings, giving medications, performing morning care and collecting lab samples. Assisting the physician during medical procedures is another key responsibility. You are expected to be able to use medical equipment safety and effectively. And you must do all these and more for several patients almost simultaneously.

No doubt, the workload is one of the heaviest among all nurses. You will always have something to do and it can get really tiring. Yet, boredom is not a problem because of the variety of cases and nursing procedures you can perform. The experience will transform you from a newbie nurse into a well-rounded nurse with solid skills.

You can take it one step further and get certified in this specialty. The Academy of Medical Surgical Nurses administers a certification exam called the Certified Medical Surgical Registered Nurse (CMSRN). By becoming certified, you earn peer recognition, promote patient care and improve your career. You can also go for master’s in nursing degrees with a focus on medical surgical nursing. Advanced nursing degrees can help you become an expert in this field.

If you have lots of experience coupled with a master’s degree or certification, you will earn high salaries if you remain committed. Actual wages vary from place to place and from one work setting to another. Nurses in this field can expect to earn between $50,000 and $70,000 on average. The nursing shortage will ensure that there will be plenty of jobs for all nurses, and most certainly for one who is proficient in all aspects of adult health — the medical surgical nurse.

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