Jennifer Fink | NursingLink
Do you like challenges? Hate being bored? Consider a career as a med-surg nurse.
Once considered a not-very-glamorous, catch-all nursing niche, medical-surgical nursing has evolved into a full-fledge specialty. According to the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses, med-surg nursing is “one of the most demanding specialties of all the nursing specialties… [it] is no longer viewed as a stepping-stone but is the solid rock and the backbone of every institution.”
It’s not easy, though. The patients med-surg nurses care for today are sicker than the patients of years past; today, patients go home within a day or two of surgery, instead of lingering for a week or so. That change means that med-surg nurses must handle pain control, wound care, and patient teaching within a very short period of time. It also means that discharge planning has become part of most med-surg nurses’ workload, and that med-surg nurses are frequently discharging and admitting new patients. New technology also creates technical challenges and opportunities.
Still interested? Read on to learn more about med-surg nursing.
The Nitty-Gritty Details
Med-surg nurses care for adult patients both before and after surgery. They also care for adults admitted to the hospital under a variety of diagnoses – congestive heart failure, sickle cell anemia, newly diagnosed diabetes, stroke, gastrointestinal bleeding, confusion, and inability to ambulate, etc.
A med-surg nurse’s workload is constantly changing and evolving. One day, she may be hanging blood for a blood transfusion. The next, she might teach a newly diagnosed diabetic how to test his blood sugars. More likely, she’s doing both on the same day – while preparing a hip replacement patient for discharge to a rehab center. Of course, med-surg nurses also perform assessments, plan nursing interventions, administer medications, and communicate with physicians and other healthcare providers about the patients’ plan of care.
Med-surg nurses become masters of organization. Most care for four to seven patients at a time. (Some states cap patient to nurse ratios. In California, for instance, a med-surg nurse can have no more than five patients at a time.) Med-surg nurses juggle their patients’ care by carefully prioritizing and delegating appropriate nursing activities. They may rely heavily on CNAs and LPNs to handle basic nursing duties, such as bed baths, patient ambulation, and medication administration, while focusing their efforts on the overall nursing management of their group of patients. Others become highly skilled at combining duties. An experienced med-surg nurse can perform a basic physical assessment while giving a bed bath – and include plenty of patient teaching at the same time.