About Being A Medical Surgical Nurse

What Is A Medical Surgical Nurse?

An interesting thing to note about medical surgical nursing is that it is the oldest nursing specialty in existence. According to discovernursing.com, “These nurses are valued members of a surgical team, assisting surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other medical professionals throughout surgery. As a Surgical Nurse, you’ll care for patients before, during and after the procedure. Your experience will provide you with a broad range of skills, since you’ll often work with patients with acute (critical) conditions and chronic illnesses”. As a medical surgical nurse you will be able to fill practically any job role within the nursing profession.

Nature Of The Work/Duties

Medical surgical nurses are expected to be able to perform a variety of different tasks in a medical setting:

  • Education forms a major part of your job role as a medical surgical nurse as you will need to teach patients, families, peers, and other health professionals about various issues.
  • In addition you will be responsible for supporting patients in their efforts to identify what is in their best interests and helping them reach a conclusion about the best medical path to choose.
  • You will need to care for patients from all age groups, patients with multiple medical, surgical, and/or psychiatric diagnoses, and patients with diagnoses across all medical specialties.
  • One of your primary goals will be to provide comfort and attention to people who, at that moment, need someone to take an interest in their lives as they deal with a serious medical affliction.
  • You will need to heal patients both physically and emotionally through intuitive experiences that rely on observation and touch; there are more domains involved in physical therapy than simply overt medicine.
  • Another extremely important role that you will play as a medical surgical nurse lies in helping patients to return to their highest level of functioning as soon as possible.
  • In addition you will be directly responsible for providing dignity and respect in end-of-life decision-making and care.


As a medical surgical nurse you can seek employment in number of different areas, including:Medical Surgical Nurse

  • Hospitals
  • Clinics
  • Outpatient surgery centers
  • MD offices
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Other practice sites

Because of the broad skill set that you will have, you should have little difficulty seeking employment in most parts of the country.

Medical Surgical Nurse Requirements

The following basic requirements are involved in becoming a medical surgical nurse:

  • To begin with, you need to meet the educational requirements that are necessary for this line of work.
  • If possible you should take elective courses in medical-surgical nursing during school as this will provide you will valuable experience and information.
  • The next step involves passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) which will allow you to start working as a Registered Nurse, or registered nurse. The more experience you get, the better equipped you will be for this line of work.
  • It is very important that you get experience working in critical or intensive care, and working with surgical patients before applying to take your certification exam.
  • Then you must pass the Certified Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse (CMSRN®) exam through the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses’ (AMSN) Medical-Surgical Nursing Certification Board (MSNCB) to become a Certified Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse (CMSRN®).

Personality Traits

There are a number of personality skills that will be particularly helpful in this line of work:

  • You will need to have excellent assessment skills
  • You will need to have excellent technical skills
  • You will need to have excellent organizational skills
  • You will need to have excellent prioritization skills
  • You will need to be willing to work with people from different age groups, so an open mind is required
  • As a medical surgical nurse you must be able to celebrate that there is always something new to learn

Educational Requirements

The educational requirements for this line of work are fairly intensive. In order to enter a training program you will need to have a high school diploma or an acceptable equivalent thereof. You will then need to earn a Nursing Diploma, an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) before you can complete the process of becoming a professional medical surgical nurse. It will be extremely helpful if you take elective courses in medical surgical nursing during school if the option is available to you. The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) is an essential part of becoming a medical surgical nurse and you may find it necessary to engage in additional education in order to pass this exam easily. There are a number of education aides available online and from book stores that will help you prepare for this test. The same applies when it comes time to pass the Certified Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse (CMSRN®) exam through the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses’ (AMSN) Medical-Surgical Nursing Certification Board (MSNCB) to become certified in this nursing specialty. There are a number of educational resources available to help you prepare for this to the best of your ability.


To become a medical surgical nurse you need to earn your RN license. Once you have completed your RN training program you will apply for licensure with your state board of nursing. When you receive confirmation from the board you can use that confirmation to set a date with Pearson VUE to take the NCLEX-RN examination that will earn you your license. Passing the online multiple choice exam will mean that you are eligible to be licensed, and your state board of nursing will send you your license in a few weeks.

How To Become A Medical Surgical Nurse

Training, Advancement And Other Qualifications

As a surgical nurse there will be a number of roles that you can fulfill in a medical setting including the following:

  • A scrub nurse
  • A circulating nurse
  • An RN first assistant

Because of the vast array of skills that you will learn, y6ou will find it easy to enter practically any other specialty within nursing if that is your desire. The training that you will receive as a medical surgical nurse will prepare you to display the following skills in your job:

  • You must be knowledgeable in all aspects of adult health, a very wide array of knowledge indeed.
  • You must understand the importance of measuring and improving the quality of care delivered.
  • As a medical surgical nurse you will be taught to consider patient safety to be the top priority.

Source An Accredited Education Program

It is extremely important that you attend an accredited training program when doing your undergraduate as well as your postgraduate nursing training. Your state board of nursing is a good place to start when looking for accredited programs as they should be able to provide you with a comprehensive list. The schools you are interested should also openly display information about their accreditations status, if not, this information should be available on request. You could also consider speaking to current nurses about where they completed their training as their program must have been accredited.

Earn Your Associate’s Degree

Earning your associate’s degree in nursing is one route that you can take to becoming a medical surgical nurse, although you may have better luck seeking employment with a more advanced qualification. Many technical and vocational schools as well as some universities will offer training for an associate’s degree. Apply for at least three schools, select the best one, compete the course requirements, and graduate.

Obtain Your Licensure

The license that you need to be a medical surgical nurse is your RN license, but once you have that you will also need to receive your Registered Nurse – Board Certified (RN-BC) certification. To be eligible for certification you must have a valid registered nurse license, two years experience as a nurse, 2,000 clinical hours in medical-surgical nursing in the past three years, and 30 hours of continuing education in medical-surgical nursing in the past three years. You can apply for certification either online or by mail. When you apply you will need to send in proof of certification and your hours of experience. Once you have applied for the certification exam you will receive an authorization to test that you must take to approved testing facilities. You will have 90 days to take the exam from the time your application is approved. Medical surgical nurse practitioners can renew their certification after five years with proof of 1,000 clinical hours in medical-surgical nursing and participation in professional development.

Online/Distance Education Programs

Although there are a number of online programs available, it is important that you remember to check the accreditation status of a program before enrolling. In addition you must ensure that in some way you complete the compulsory clinical training involved in any nursing program. If you find a good online school, the burden of studying will be significantly reduced for you.

Job Outlook

The job outlook for this line of work is looking better and better, especially as the changing nature of health care has caused the need for medical surgical nurses in clinics, home health care agencies, HMOs, ambulatory care units, long-term care homes, surgical centers, and universities. As they are no longer restricted to hospital settings, they have more career opportunities open to them. In general the nursing profession is growing at a faster rate than other professions, which means that the future is bright for nurses starting their career.


Different states offer different salaries to their medical surgical nurses:

  • South Carolina = $73,000 a year
  • Louisiana = $66,000 a year
  • North Carolina = $80,000 a year
  • Mississippi = $97,000 a year
  • Oklahoma = $74,000 a year
  • New York = $97,000 a year
  • Virginia = $83,000 a year
  • Hawaii = $60,000 a year
  • Pennsylvania = $70,000 a year
  • Nebraska = $67,000 a year
  • South Dakota = $65,000 a year
  • Puerto Rico = $76,000 a year
  • District of Columbia = $94,000 a year
  • Ohio = $77,000 a year
  • West Virginia = $81,000 a year
  • Wisconsin = $70,000 a year
  • New Mexico = $74,000 a year
  • Missouri = $81,000 a year
  • New Hampshire = $82,000 a year
  • Arizona = $73,000 a year
  • Massachusetts = $94,000 a year
  • Montana = $84,000 a year
  • Minnesota = $75,000 a year
  • Texas = $77,000 a year
  • Maine = $76,000 a year
  • New Jersey = $87,000 a year
  • Wyoming = $81,000 a year
  • Nevada = $78,000 a year
  • Washington = $78,000 a year
  • Oregon = $77,000 a year
  • Idaho = $72,000 a year
  • Rhode Island = $84,000 a year
  • Alabama = $84,000 a year
  • Utah = $75,000 a year
  • Tennessee = $77,000 a year
  • Kansas = $74,000 a year
  • North Dakota = $78,000 a year
  • Florida = $79,000 a year
  • Connecticut = $88,000 a year
  • Maryland = $83,000 a year
  • California = $91,000 a year
  • Iowa = $75,000 a year
  • Delaware = $77,000 a year
  • Colorado = $72,000 a year
  • Michigan = $78,000 a year
  • Virgin Islands = $93,000 a year
  • Vermont = $80,000 a year
  • Indiana = $83,000 a year
  • Arkansas = $81,000 a year
  • Georgia = $89,000 a year
  • Illinois = $86,000 a year
  • Alaska = $70,000 a year
  • Kentucky = $73,000 a year

Medical surgical nursing is a stable and well paying occupation within the medical profession. There are many schools in existence that will train you adequately for this line of work. By beginning a career in medical surgical nursing you will open many doors for yourself in the medical arena because of the large number of skills you will acquire through your training and during your job.

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