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What do Med-Surg nurses do?

Jennifer L.W. Fink, RN, BSN is a professional freelance writer with almost a decade of experience as a Registered Nurse. She's worked in both hospitals and nursing homes as a med-surg, geriatric and transplant nurse. Her national publication credits include Parents, RN, Ladies' Home Journal, Nursing Spectrum, Pregnancy and Journal of Christian Nursing.

What don't they do might be the better question! Medical-surgical nursing is an incredibly broad area of practice; in one day, a med-surg nurse may care for a 30-year-old recovering from knee surgery, an elderly woman with Alzheimer's who insists it's 1963, a newly diagnosed, non-English speaking diabetic and an alcoholic receiving blood transfusions for a GI bleed. If she works at a small, rural hospital, she might care for a pediatric patient or two as well.

For years, med-surg nursing was suggested as the perfect first job for all new nursing grads. The thinking was that nurses needed a solid base of general nursing experience before specializing in any one area. But increasingly, nurses are recognizing that med-surg nursing is a specialty of its own, requiring a specific body of knowledge and skills. Med-surg nurses can now pursue certification through the American Nurses Credentialing Board and the Medical/Surgical Nurses Certification Board.

On a daily basis, med-surg nurses assess patients; administer medications; ease pain; encourage activity; prevent complications; interpret rhythm strips; monitor labs; insert IVs; change dressings; educate patients and families; comfort the dying and collaborate with physicians, therapists and other healthcare providers. Med-surg nurses also work closely with certified nursing assistants (CNAs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs).

In addition to excellent nursing skills, med-surg nurses need top-notch organizational skills and the ability to prioritize multiple tasks. Life moves fast on a med-surg unit, and you must be prepared to keep up with a constantly changing environment.

The beauty of med-surg nursing is that every day is different. As a med-surg nurse, you will never be bored at work, because each day brings new challenges. You'll also quickly amass a broad knowledge base and will be able to easily transition into other specialties, such as cardiac or transplant nursing, if you so desire.


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