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Medical-Surgical Nurse: Education and Career Information

Medical-surgical nurses are the largest of the nursing specialties, and anyone who has been in the hospital has likely been cared for by one or more of them. Primarily, RNs who work in this specialty take care of adult patients in hospital settings the majority of the time. They may care for patients who are acutely or chronically ill, as well as those patients who are recovering from a surgical procedure. The level of coordination it takes to be a medical-surgical nurse is very important, as they see a number of patients throughout their shifts and must keep every patient’s diagnosis and other issues in mind.

What does a Medical-Surgical Nurse do?

A medical-surgical nurse works shifts, usually at a hospital. During those shifts, the nurse will be responsible for caring for a number of patients. The number of people the nurse must care for on any given shift can vary, depending on how many people are in the hospital and how many of them are in that particular unit or on that specific floor. Not all nurses will be busy with a heavy patient load all the time, but having a large number of patients to work with and care for on a daily basis is very common. This is a job that requires hours on one’s feet and a sharp mind to remember everything that needs to be done during a shift.

How much does a Medical-Surgical Nurse Earn?

The amount a medical-surgical nurse earns varies considerably. All registered nurses are qualified to work as medical-surgical nurses, whether they are certified in that specialty. The mean hourly wage for these nurses, according to Chron, is between $21.62 and $46.46 per hour, with a median of $33.23 per hour as of May 2011. However, when a registered nurse is certified as a medical-surgical nurse, they can earn toward the higher end of these figures or even more, while a non-certified nurse may earn closer to the lower end. Location also matters, as the East and West Coasts tend to provide higher wages than the Midwest and South, likely based on the cost of living in those areas.

What Type of Skills are needed to become a Medical-Surgical Nurse?

According to the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses, there are a number of needed skills required. A nurse will need to be compassionate and committed to what they do, but there is more to the job of being a good medical-surgical nurse than that. Additionally, there are a number of skills that will be beneficial to anyone who wants to work as a medical-surgical nurse:

Multitasking: Medical-surgical nurses are called upon to do a number of things at once, and to remember a lot of information no matter what else they are doing at the time. They are responsible for many patients during their shifts, and they must make sure that patients are not neglected or overlooked, and that family questions about that patient get answered.

Juggling patients: Because a medical-surgical nurse care for so many patients during their shift, it is important that they are able to keep all of these patients straight. Remembering each patient’s illness or condition, what medications they take, and other important information is vital to being a good medical-surgical nurse

Keeping people informed: The patient may have questions, and the family will likely have them, as well. While doctors may need to answer some of those questions, nurses are the ones that get asked most of the time. These medical-surgical nurses need to have the majority of the answers to things the patient and family will ask about, requiring them to be available and to have the necessary information to help patients and families.

Retaining vast knowledge: Knowledge of body systems and conditions is very important in a medical-surgical nursing career. Because they are not as directly specialized as a nurse who only deals with one body system or location, it is vital that these nurses know a lot about all aspects of the human body. The more knowledge they have of everything that could go wrong with the body, the more they are able to understand and help their patients, and work with the patients’ families.

Coordinating 24/7 care: Being able to plan and coordinate is a very necessary skill for the medical-surgical nurse. Because they are often the ones coordinating the 24/7 care of their patients, they need to be able to keep that care on the right path for each patient when they leave their shift and another nurse takes over. They must remember to keep everything charted and provide all information, so the right level and type of care can be given.

Physical stamina: Medical-surgical nurses need intellectual, emotional, and mental stamina, but they also need physical stamina. They may have to move and adjust patients, help them in and out of bed, and assist them with a number of tasks. Because of that, they need to be strong and in good shape, so they can perform their job duties the correct way. That can also help keep the nurses and the patients from getting injured.

Well-Educated: These nurses need the education that comes with knowing all about the body, along with the diseases and conditions that can affect it. The more they know, the more they can help their patients. In addition to the educational requirements for their profession, nurses often learn much of what they need to know on the job.

Internship Requirements

The internship requirements to become a medical-surgical nurse can vary. They are based on the state, school, and program the future nurse is attending. With that in mind, there are clinical requirements that have to be met. Without these, the nursing exam cannot be taken. Many internship requirements are 1,000 hours and successful completion of the exam, before a medical-surgical nurse can work independently in the field or become certified.

Educational Requirements

In order to work as a medical-surgical nurse, proper education is required. The American Nurses Credentialing Center states that a nurse must obtain an RN (Registered Nurse) license. This is generally done through a bachelor’s degree from an accredited nursing program at a recognized school. Then, the nurse must work for two years full-time in that field. With 2,000 hours of practice in the medical-surgical field and 30 hours of continuing education within the last three years, the nurse can become certified.

However, it is important to note that certification is not a requirement for practice. By default, all registered nurses who are not part of another specialty are medical-surgical nurses. This means that obtaining the title of registered nurse through education and the passing of the licensing exam is enough to meet the requirements to work as a medical-surgical nurse. Nurses who are working in this field are not required to obtain a certification in medical-surgical nursing unless they want to work for a hospital or other company that requires them to have that certificate. With the nursing shortage, most hospitals are not requiring a certification, as long as the nurse is licensed as a registered nurse.

Nursing Scholarships

American Assembly for Men in Nursing (AAMN) American Cancer Society Doctoral Degree Scholarships in Cancer Nursing The Gates Millenium Scholars (GMS) National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA)
New Careers in Nursing (NCIN) Nurse Corps Scholarship (NCS) Nurses of Tomorrow
Nursing Economics Foundation Tylenol Future Care Scholarship American Holistic Nurses Association
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