Medical-Surgical Nurse

What Is a Medical-Surgical Nurse?

Medical-surgical nursing is the largest nursing specialty in the U.S. and is considered by many as the foundation of nursing practice. Medical-surgical nurses are RNs who work mainly in hospital units or at acute care facilities with patients who are experiencing a wide range of medical issues and diseases, or patients who are recovering from surgery. Often, RNs begin their careers as medical-surgical nurses. The specialty requires the nurse to acquire and maintain a broad array of knowledge and skills in different areas of nursing care and then apply them in a fast-paced, acute care hospital environment.

What Are Some Medical-Surgical Nurse Duties?

Some typical tasks that are carried out by medical-surgical nurses include:

  • Creating and coordinating patient care plans
  • Coordinating patient discharges
  • Consulting and working alongside other healthcare team members to ensure best possible patient outcomes
  • Evaluating the health of a patient; adjusting treatments accordingly
  • Monitoring vital signs
  • Coordinating, organizing, and prioritizing complicated multiple-patient assignments
  • Educating and guiding patients and their loved ones regarding treatment options
  • Ensuring medical equipment such as feeding tubes, IVs, oxygen tanks, and catheters are working correctly
  • Documenting patient progress
  • Administering medication

Where Do Medical-Surgical Nurses Work?

Medical-surgical nurses typically find employment in the following environments:

  • Hospitals
  • Home health
  • U.S. military
  • Inpatient clinics
  • Health maintenance organizations
  • Outpatient centers
  • Long-term care facilities

How to Become a Medical-Surgical Nurse

When the nursing profession was in its infancy, most nurses who worked in hospital wards performing bedside care were classified as medical-surgical nurses. Today, medical-surgical nurses work in many different positions on the hospital floor as well as in other settings. Quite often medical-surgical nursing is the very first step that freshly licensed RNs will take during their careers, since jobs in bedside post-operative patient care are some of the most plentiful around. Because there is such a wide variety of patients which come through the hospital units of a medical-surgical nurse each week, new nurses can gain a vast amount of nursing experiences, practice, and perspectives that they might not otherwise get in other nursing specialties. Becoming a medical-surgical nurse requires the right combination of education, clinical training, and experience.

Step 1: Educational Requirements

Future medical-surgical nurses will first need to earn an ADN or BSN degree from an accredited university or college. These days, a BSN degree is increasingly preferred by employers. Once the program has been completed, the next task is to pass the NCLEX-RN exam and then gain licensure as an RN. Some initial experience in the medical-surgical specialty and a number of hours of continuing education within the area of medical-surgical nursing will lead to eligibility for certification as a medical-surgical registered nurse (MS-RN).

Do Medical-Surgical Nurses Need an RN Degree?

Medical-surgical nurses will need to hold an unencumbered RN license and have some experience in the field. An ADN or BSN degree will be required. These nurses will also need to undergo several hours of continuing education in medical-surgical nursing in order to obtain a specialty certification as a Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse (MS-RN).

Step 2: Required Medical-Surgical Nurse Certifications/Credentials

The Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse (MS-RN) certification is granted via the Medical-Surgical Nursing Certification Board (MSNCB) which is affiliated with the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses (AMSN), the American Nurses Association (ANA), and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

To be eligible to become certified as a medical-surgical registered nurse (MS-RN) you will need to have fulfilled the following requirements:

  • Be in possession of a current, unencumbered RN license
  • Have at least two years of full-time employment experience as an RN
  • Have at least 2,000 hours of clinical experience in the medical-surgical specialty filed within the previous three years
  • Have successfully completed 30 hours of continuing education courses in the discipline of medical-surgical nursing within the previous three years
  • Pass the exam given by ANCC or MSNCB

MS-RNs must re-certify every five years.

Medical-Surgical Nursing Jobs, Salary & Employment

Medical-surgical nurses should not only be exceptionally knowledgeable in a wide variety of nursing topics, but they must also be able to keep calm and maintain a cool head under stressful conditions. As a medical-surgical nurse, you will be confronted with a vast assortment of medical issues, diseases, and illnesses, all of which will require the close attention and advanced skill set of the MS-RN. Medical-surgical nursing is one of the oldest nursing specialties around and is unlikely to disappear anytime soon, so it's an excellent career choice.

Job Description & Information

  • Essential Skills Needed - A vast assortment of skills and knowledge in all areas concerning adult health, patience, organizational and technical abilities, ability to function well under stress, strong interpersonal communication skills, empathy and compassion, and dependability
  • Job Outlook - The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has estimated that job growth for RNs will increase by at least 16% between the years 2014 and 2024. The projected employment outlook for medical-surgical nurses is quite likely to be at a similar figure

What Is the Average Salary of a Medical-Surgical Nurse?

According to PayScale, the median annual salary for medical-surgical nurses comes in around $61,178. Exact figures will depend on factors such as education level, amount of clinical experience in the field, city and state of employment, the employer, and any other certifications or credentials the MS-RN may have. Employment benefits packages will also depend upon the same factors. Most MS-RNs who are employed full-time will receive some kind of medical, dental, vision, prescription, and less frequently life insurance coverage from their employers. It also isn't out of the norm for these nurses to enjoy a couple to a few weeks of paid-time off each year. This, however, will also depend on the employing organization.

How Much Do Medical-Surgical Nurses Make per Year?

  • $44,000 – $88,000 annually

How Much Do Medical-Surgical Nurses Make per Hour?

  • $30.40 average hourly wage

Medical-Surgical Nurse Resources