What Is Med Surg Nursing?

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Med surg nurses are in high demand. What is med surg nursing? Learn everything you need to know about this popular field including med surg nurse salary, certification requirements, and more. 

Med surg nursing is short for medical surgical nursing. According to the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses, this nursing specialty is the single largest in the US. Even though a majority of healthcare professionals work in this nursing area, many people don’t know what it is.

What Is Med Surg Nursing?

What Is Med Surg Nursing?

Medical surgical nursing is a specialty that cares for patients who have a wide variety of illnesses, injuries, and needs. It’s a diverse field that demands extensive knowledge and provides a large variety of opportunities. 

These factors have led to the field being in high demand and experiencing incredible growth, making it now the largest nursing specialty in the US. Fun fact: due to a large number of surgeries regularly occurring around the country, this field is an excellent one for travel nurses who love a challenge and to work in new areas.

Med Surg Nurse Duties

What is med surg exactly and what do nurses in this field do? Medical surgical nurses focus on patients who are typically either preparing for or recovering from some sort of surgery. It’s a large field due to the diverse nature of all the patients’ needs.

One thing’s for sure: working on the med surg floor provides so much variety that you’re never likely to see the exact same thing twice!

In some ways, this field of nursing is just like any other nursing specialty. There are certain things that nearly all nurses do (including med surg nurses) since they are the backbone of the field, including:

  • Assessing a patient’s condition
  • Keeping medical records up to date
  • Checking vitals
  • Running blood tests
  • Wound care and dressing changes
  • Administering medicine
  • Operating necessary equipment (including catheters, IVs, etc)
  • Educate patients on their condition
  • Coordinate patient’s care plan with other health professionals
  • Inform families of updates
  • And more

In other ways, med surg nursing is different. Working in the med surg unit is extremely fast-paced and demands a very extensive base of knowledge due to the fact that these nurses work with all types of surgery patients.

What Is The Med Surg Unit?

Traditionally, this is a unit found in a hospital that consists of rooms for patients recovering from surgery.  It’s similar to a typical hospital ward in layout and general care provided. 

However, it differs from a general hospital floor in that the patients on a med surg floor often come from areas of the hospital where more intensive care is required (ex: ER, ICU, etc).

Since med surg nursing is needed in any location where patients recover from surgery, med surg units can also be found in other types of healthcare settings now such as:

  • Outpatient surgical center
  • Inpatient clinics
  • Nursing homes
  • Military facilities
  • Home care

Types Of Patients Found On The Med Surg Floor

Med surg unit patients have one thing in common: proximity to going through surgery. Beyond that, their circumstances vary extensively. Some examples of the types of patients a med surg nurse would expect to treat include:

  • Hip and knee replacements
  • Amputations
  • Sepsis or other advanced infections
  • Major injuries from falls or accidents
  • Diabetes
  • Traumatic brain injury

By the very nature of the types of patients that a med surg nurse will treat and the high likelihood of comorbidities, med surg nursing requires an extensive understanding of medical issues and training.

How To Become A Med Surg Nurse

There are several nursing specialties that require additional certifications and qualifications. Med surg nurses do not require additional certification, and the field is often the first where brand new RNs work. It’s a good fit for new RNs for several reasons:

  • It’s an area with one of the greatest needs.
  • Has an abundant supply of job openings.
  • Provides a terrific opportunity to learn a lot in a short amount of time.
  • Offers support from other experienced nurses in the unit.
  • Provides beneficial nursing experience.

Education Requirements

One of two degrees is required to get hired as a med surg nurse: a 2-year ADN or a more advanced 4-year BSN. Nurses with an ADN (Associate’s Degree in Nursing) are frequently hired for these med surg positions. 

However, a BSN (Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing) is becoming increasingly preferred and the commitment to pursue one could even be a condition of employment for a nurse with an ADN.

In addition, brand new nurses will be able to find med surg specialty internships at most hospitals where they learn under the supervision of experienced nurses. While experienced nurses who want to transfer to a med surg unit won’t need to participate in an internship, they will need to go through the proper training to ensure they have the proper knowledge and can perform the duties needed for the job.

One additional option in med surg nursing is to take the Certified Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse (CMSRN) exam. This med surg nurse certification is typically done after at least 2 years of employment. While it isn’t required, it can present the opportunity for a possible pay increase.

Med Surg Nurse Salary

As the median age of patients continues rising, so will the need for experienced med surg nursing professionals. The demand for med surg nurses continues to increase, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The current salary range for a med surg nurse is $61,000 – $110,000, with an average salary of $80,000.

If you enjoy a fast-paced environment, with dynamic patients and no two days ever being the same, I encourage you to check out med surg nursing!

More Resources

Med-Surg Mindset

Whether you are fresh out of nursing school or an experienced nurse starting out in med-surg for the first time, the learning curve is steep. This course will make sure you start off your first acute care nursing job on the right foot.

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