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Med-Surg Nursing

Med-Surg Nursing

Jennifer Fink | NursingLink

Critical Skills

A good med-surg nurse should be:

• Compassionate. Med-surg nurses care for patients of all ages from all walks of life. Some are sick because of life choices. The best med-surg nurses care for all of their patients equally.
• Creative. Informed, out-of-the-box-thinking is a great asset for a med-surg nurse. More than one med-surg nurse has calmed a fidgety, confused elderly woman by handing her a pile of washcloths to fold.
• A critical thinker. Med-surg nurses constantly assess their patients and analyze information.
• Quick on her feet. Patients’ conditions can change in a heartbeat. A med-surg nurse must be prepared to rearrange her plan for the day based on what’s tossed her way.
• Cooperative. Even the best med-surg nurses need help. Nurses who are willing to help others are more likely to get help when they ask for it.


Med-surg nurses should be graduates of accredited schools of nursing. Experience in adult health is a plus, but not required.

New grads are welcomed in med-surg. In fact, for years, med-surg was considered the “first stop” after nursing school. Many nurses still think that a stint in med-surg provides a solid foundation for future nursing practice. Carolyn Newstrom, RN, of California, believes that med-surg is an ideal place for new grads – but realizes that not everyone can (or wants to) score a position in med-surg after graduation. “Right now, the barrier is the ratio of med-surg openings to the number of new grads,” Newstrom explains. Although there’s a nationwide nursing shortage, not all hospitals are hiring med-surg nurses at the present time.

Dedicated med-surg nurses may apply for specialty certification. Both the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses (AMSN) and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offer certification exams. Licensed RNs with at least two years of med-surg experience and 2000 hours of practice time over the last three years are eligible to sit for the exams.


According to, the average compensation for a med-surg nurse is between $55,000 and $80,000 per year. Salaries vary based on experience and hours worked (off-shifts and weekends often pay differentials; overtime is usually time-and-a-half.) Med-surg nurses who work for staffing agencies typically make more than med-surg nurses on staff.

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