Surgical Nurse

What Does a Surgical Nurse Do?

Surgical nurses, often called medical-surgical nurses, are specially trained to provide nursing care for patients before, during and after surgery. They are valued members of a medical facility’s surgical team who assist surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other health care professionals during surgical procedures. Surgical nursing is the oldest nursing specialty, and medical-surgical nurses make up the lion’s share of all nurses in the U.S. Before surgery, a surgical nurse explains to the patient how the procedure will go, answering any questions they have and informing them of any risks. They take medical histories and clear patients for surgery. During surgery, they sterilize the surgical area, pass instruments to the physician, monitor vital signs, and perform certain medical tasks at the surgery site. After surgery, they manage a patient’s post-operative care, which includes pain relief and positioning of the patient, as well as close monitoring for signs of complications. Surgical nurses must have a broad range of skills, as they work with patients with various acute conditions and chronic illnesses.

How Can I Become a Surgical Nurse?

The first step toward becoming a surgical nurse is to complete an approved nursing education program. The most common way of doing this is to earn a degree in nursing. Most nurses have earned either an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited college or university, although the BSN is the preferred degree. Less common is earning a nursing diploma, a program typically offered through hospitals. During your nursing education, it is helpful to take elective courses in medical-surgical nursing, if possible. After completing a nursing program, all future nurses go on to take an exam called the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination) so they can become licensed to practice nursing in their state. Many nurses gain experience as a staff nurse working in critical care or intensive care nursing before moving into medical-surgical nursing. After accumulating significant clinical experience working with surgical patients, you can proceed to become board certified through the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses.

What Is the Career and Salary Outlook for a Surgical Nurse?

The career outlook for registered nurses overall is excellent, and experienced nurses who specialize in a particular area of health care, such as surgical nursing, are often highly sought-after. Becoming certified can greatly increase your job prospects. The overall employment of registered nurses is projected to grow by 22 percent between 2008 and 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The annual salary for a medical-surgical nurse is between $49,000 and $66,000, according to SimplyHired.com, a site that calculates average salaries based on what is listed in the job postings it receives. A number of factors can affect your salary as a surgical nurse, including how many years of experience you have, what certifications you have, what region of the U.S. you live in, and whether you are working in a metropolitan or rural area.