Career Development

What Does a Medical Surgical Nurse Do?

Find out what a medical surgical nurse does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a medical surgical nurse.

Medical surgical nurses are responsible for providing direct patient care. They commonly work in hospitals, but may also be found in other healthcare settings such as nursing homes or ambulatory surgery centers.

Medical surgical nurses provide a wide range of services to patients. These include administering medications and treatments, monitoring vital signs, performing diagnostic tests, and assisting surgeons during procedures.

Medical Surgical Nurse Job Duties

A medical surgical nurse typically has a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Administering medications orally or by injection to patients in accordance with physician’s orders
  • Monitoring patients’ conditions and reporting changes in their condition or status to the physician
  • Performing diagnostic tests such as EKGs, EEGs, and urinalysis on patients
  • Preparing patients for surgery by washing their hands with antibacterial soap and applying sterile drapes to the surgical site
  • Observing patients for signs of pain or discomfort, administering pain medication as needed
  • Assisting with surgical procedures during operating hours by holding retractors or suction devices, preparing materials, or assisting with sterilization tasks
  • Performing clinical lab tests such as drawing blood samples or collecting urine specimens from patients
  • Preparing patients for examinations by bathing them or shaving their hair or other body parts as indicated
  • Taking and recording vital signs such as pulse rate, respiration rate, and temperature

Medical Surgical Nurse Salary & Outlook

Medical surgical nurses’ salaries vary depending on their level of education and experience, the size of the hospital or medical facility where they work, and the geographic location of their job.

  • Median Annual Salary: $85,000 ($40.87/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $115,000 ($55.29/hour)

The employment of medical-surgical nurses is expected to grow faster than average over the next decade.

Demand for healthcare services will increase as the large baby-boom population ages and people continue to live longer. In addition, technological advances in medicine may allow more procedures to be done on an outpatient basis, which will require more nurses to provide care in hospitals.

Related: 25 Medical Surgical Nurse Interview Questions and Answers

Medical Surgical Nurse Job Requirements

A medical surgical nurse typically needs to have the following qualifications:

Education: Medical surgical nurses are typically required to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Some employers prefer candidates who have a master’s degree in nursing.

Nurses can earn a degree in either a traditional four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program or a two-year associate degree in nursing (ADN). The BSN takes longer to complete, but it provides students with a broader range of nursing knowledge. The ADN is a good choice for students who want to get started in nursing quickly.

Training & Experience: Most medical surgical nurses receive on-the-job training from their employer after they are hired. This training helps the nurse learn the specific procedures and protocols for the facility. It also helps the nurse learn how to use the equipment and supplies they will need to provide care for their patients.

Certifications & Licenses: After completing your BSN program, you will need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN). This is the standard certification requirement for all nurses, regardless of specialty.

Medical Surgical Nurse Skills

Medical surgical nurses need the following skills in order to be successful:

Communication: Medical surgical nurses must be able to communicate with patients, other medical staff and patients’ families. They must be able to explain procedures and treatments to patients and their families, as well as explain test results and other medical information. They must also be able to communicate with other medical staff to ensure that patients receive the care they need.

Empathy: Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. Medical surgical nurses often use empathy to help patients feel more comfortable during medical procedures. For example, if a patient is nervous about a procedure, a nurse might use empathy to try to understand the patient’s feelings and help them feel more comfortable.

Organization: Medical surgical nurses often have to prioritize their tasks and organize their work schedules to ensure they complete all their duties on time. This can include prioritizing emergency procedures over non-emergency procedures, keeping track of patient files and maintaining a clean and organized work environment.

Time management: Medical surgical nurses often have multiple patients to care for at the same time. It’s important for these professionals to prioritize their tasks and manage their time effectively so they can provide the best care for their patients. Medical surgical nurses can use their time management skills to check in with their patients regularly, keep track of their patients’ health and administer medications on time.

Critical thinking: Critical thinking is the ability to make quick decisions based on the information you have. Medical professionals often need to make quick decisions about patient care, and a nurse’s ability to think critically can help them make the best choice for their patients. Medical surgical nurses often need to make quick decisions about which treatments to administer and which ones to delay.

Medical Surgical Nurse Work Environment

Medical surgical nurses work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, outpatient clinics, and physician offices. They typically work full time, although some nurses may work part time or on an as-needed basis. Nurses who work in hospitals may work nights, weekends, and holidays, and they may be on call. Nurses who work in outpatient clinics or physician offices usually have regular daytime hours. Medical surgical nurses may be exposed to infectious diseases and hazardous materials, and they may be required to lift and move patients. The work can be physically and emotionally demanding, and nurses may work long hours.

Medical Surgical Nurse Trends

Here are three trends influencing how medical surgical nurses work. Medical surgical nurses will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Need for More Nurses in the Workforce

The medical field is growing rapidly, and hospitals are increasingly looking for nurses to help staff their facilities. This means that there is a high demand for nurses who have experience working in medical surgical units.

Medical surgical nurses are essential members of the team, as they are responsible for providing care to patients before, during, and after surgery. By becoming an expert in this area, nurses can help ensure that patients receive the best possible care.

Patient Safety Concerns

As patient safety becomes a greater concern, medical surgical nurses will need to be more aware of potential risks.

This includes being familiar with new procedures and technologies that may put patients at risk, as well as understanding how to identify and prevent errors. In addition, medical surgical nurses will need to be able to communicate effectively with other members of the healthcare team in order to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

More Focus on Patient Care

As the health care industry continues to evolve, hospitals are placing a greater emphasis on patient care. This means that medical surgical nurses will need to focus on providing excellent care to patients while also managing their time effectively.

In order to be successful in this environment, medical surgical nurses will need to be able to manage their time efficiently and work well under pressure. They will also need to be comfortable communicating with patients and other members of the healthcare team.

How to Become a Medical Surgical Nurse

A medical surgical nurse career can be a great way to start your nursing career. It’s important to consider what type of medical surgical nursing you want to do, as there are many different specialties within this field. You may want to specialize in critical care, emergency room, or oncology nursing, for example.

No matter which specialty you choose, it’s important to have a strong knowledge of anatomy and physiology, as well as pharmacology. You should also be familiar with the latest treatments and procedures used in your area of specialization.

Advancement Prospects

After a few years of experience, many medical-surgical nurses move into management positions. Some become head nurses or nurse managers, while others may become assistant directors or directors of nursing. With additional education and experience, some medical-surgical nurses may move into executive-level nursing positions.

Other medical-surgical nurses may choose to specialize in a particular area of medicine. For example, some may become certified in wound care or enterostomal therapy. Others may choose to specialize in the care of patients with cancer, heart disease, or diabetes. Still others may become certified as nurse educators or nurse informaticists.

Medical Surgical Nurse Job Description Example

At [CompanyX], we provide high-quality patient care in a variety of medical settings. We’re looking for a medical surgical nurse to join our team and provide care to patients with a wide range of surgical needs. The ideal candidate will have experience in pre-operative, post-operative, and intra-operative care. He or she will be responsible for assessing patients, developing and implementing care plans, and providing education to patients and their families. The medical surgical nurse will also collaborate with other members of the healthcare team to ensure optimal patient outcomes.

Duties & Responsibilities

  • Provide direct patient care to medical and surgical patients
  • Assist with the development and implementation of individualized patient care plans
  • Monitor and document patient vital signs and condition
  • Perform diagnostic tests and administer medications as prescribed
  • Educate patients and families on disease process, treatment plan, and discharge planning
  • Serve as a patient advocate, providing emotional support and guidance
  • Collaborate with interdisciplinary team members to ensure optimal patient outcomes
  • Participate in quality improvement initiatives
  • Maintain knowledge of current nursing practices and standards
  • Adhere to infection control policies and procedures
  • Comply with hospital policies and procedures
  • Perform other duties as assigned

Required Skills and Qualifications

  • Registered Nurse (RN) with current state license
  • Bachelor’s degree in nursing or related field
  • 2+ years of experience as a medical surgical nurse
  • Demonstrated ability to effectively manage time and prioritize tasks
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Strong clinical assessment and critical thinking skills

Preferred Skills and Qualifications

  • Master’s degree in nursing or related field
  • 4+ years of experience as a medical surgical nurse
  • Certification in medical surgical nursing
  • Experience working in a teaching hospital
  • Experience with electronic medical records


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