This week, November 1-7, celebrates Medical-Surgical Nurses Week and focuses on the work the careers of nurses in this specialty.

Organizations including the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses and the Medical-Surgical Nursing Certification Board  promote this week to raise awareness of how med-surg nurses help patients, the skills they use and develop, and the career path of nurses who choose med-surg.

Med-surg is one area of nursing, but the skillset required of these nurses covers a wide breadth and depth of responsibilities. Med-surg nurses, the largest specialty of nurses, work in all areas of healthcare. They are hired to treat patients in hospitals, health centers, surgical centers, and offices. Med-surg nurses also find their skills in high demand so this role is a popular one for travel nurses as well.

If you’re a nursing student considering this as a career path, you might wonder what does a med-surg nurse do? Nurses in this role practice a high-level of hands-on care with their patients. They are treating patients who are ill with various ailments or they may care for those who are preparing for or recovering from surgery.

As with anyone in a nursing career, med-surg nurses need to have excellent critical thinking skills and must be confident in their work. They’re required to make immediate decisions and to notice when a patient’s health has changed in the slightest way.

As a med-surg nurse, you’ll be using the skills you have to assess the whole patient, so even if you’re treating someone who is recovering from a GI surgery, you’ll be watching for other symptoms or changes. You’ll want to be alert to changes in breathing, new indications of pain, and even changes in skin color that others may not see in their assessments.

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Because of this essential high level of awareness and understanding of the patient, you’ll need to know a lot of information and be committed to a lifelong learning process. Med-surg nurses have all reached the professional attainment of a registered nurse. As a professional med-surg nurse, becoming certified is an additional step that shows you will provide the highest level of care to your patients and also demonstrates a dedication to the nursing practice. As med-surg nurses continue to advance in their careers, they should pursue recertification to continue learning of the latest developments and advances that will help them care for their patients.

If you’re already working as a med-surg nurse, this is a week to celebrate all your life-saving work. Be sure to check out the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses week-long celebration including several virtual events you can tune into for free. As an experienced nurse in this area, you know this career offers constant change and you probably see new conditions and challenges all the time. During a year of a worldwide pandemic, however, your career probably looks very different than any other year. The COVID-19 crisis has posed a serious threat to the physical and mental health of med-surg nurses even as it reaffirmed their commitment to helping save lives.

During this year’s med-surg nurses celebrations, reassessing how you can support yourself and your team is important. Talk to your colleagues to see how you can all work together when you are seeing more patients than you ever have at once. Talk with family, friends, or professional therapists to help when you are overwhelmed. And continue to reaffirm your career choice and know a world is grateful for the work you do.

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Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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