A member of the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses (AMSN), LaToya Freeman DNP, APRN, ACCNS-AG, CPPS, HNB-BC, PCCN is also a clinical nurse specialist at Michigan Medicine. In honor of Med-Surg Nurses Week, Dr. Freeman shared her thoughts about this nursing specialty with Minority Nurse. Above all else, she sees a positive future ahead. 

“The best days for nursing are in front of us,” says Freeman.

Tell me a little about your current role and how you got into the field of med-surg nursing.
My nursing journey began over 14 years ago, following a “no” from a college advisor and a passion for medicine. Nursing has given me a purpose outside of myself and an amazing opportunity to connect with others compassionately during vulnerable moments.  

My current role is one of the roles I have enjoyed the most during my journey. As a clinical nurse specialist, I am seen as the clinical expert and a change agent. I am able to influence patient care and outcomes through three spheres of practice: patients, nurses, and the system/organization. I have had the pleasure of working with multidisciplinary teams to provide quality care to patients through a multitude of venues. My background is mostly comprised of critical care as a staff nurse, but I would teach med-surg nursing clinicals as adjunct faculty. This is where I had the opportunity to connect with bedside staff on med-surg units, and I was able to understand that med-surg nursing is truly a specialty. It takes skill, a strong foundation, grit, and a passion as they are building their practice and developing their critical thinking skills. It is quite an honor to observe a new nurse with the complexities of med-surg patients grow from novice to expert. 

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What are some of your typical responsibilities over a week?
My responsibilities over a week range in a variety of functions, which is another reason why I enjoy my role. The CNS optimizes patient care by working with care teams and nursing staff, educating nurses, educating patients and the families supporting and managing their conditions, analyzing data and patient care outcomes, assisting in research, bringing evidence-based practice to the bedside, creating policy that drives patient care, and implementing patient care programs. 

What aspects of your education and training are most valuable to you in your career?
My most valuable training was completing my doctoral studies. As I am a lifelong learner, I have completed my BNS, MSN/Ed, post-masters, and DNP. All of my educational experiences provided a different level of thinking to support patients and nursing staff. With my most recent degree, the DNP, I was able to obtain skills to influence organizations with system thinking and application of advancing nursing practice and improving patient care outcomes. This training has been beneficial in supporting the med-surg nursing units.  

Are there particular skills that serve med-surg nurses best and how do they help?
When you think about the needs of patients on med-surg units, one of many skills includes critical thinking such as critically thinking through treatment plans, orders, lab interpretation, and the nursing impact on the care being provided. Adaptability is another skill that serves well within med-surg. There are constant changes from the patient, the provider, and often the organization so being flexible is imperative. Flexibility is one of the keys to nursing. The other skill that is role modeled often is compassion. Patients are coming to the hospital during vulnerable times and may be provided an unfavorable diagnosis. Being able to connect with patients and families and support them during a challenging time is what nursing is all about.  

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What do you like about working in med-surg?
Med-surg nursing is a quiet secret in the nursing profession. Unless you work in med-surg, you may not understand the complexities of patients that are treated within the walls of med-surg.  Med-surg is a specialty of its own, providing a variety of skills, problem-solving, and understanding of multiple diagnoses within the same admission. Med-surg nurses wear several hats and juggle a variety of tasks within a typical assignment. Watching nurses thrive in this setting while providing exceptional care to the patients and taking care of each other is a sight that warms the heart. 

How does a professional organization like AMSN help your career?
Creating opportunity for professional development by a variety of means such as conferences, continuing education, and publications has been helpful. Committees within AMSN have assisted with networking with other professionals outside of my local circle. The publication journals supported by AMSN provided a venue to disseminate best practices.  

Acknowledgement of the specialty by honoring the med-surg nurses with the PRISM award has assisted in leveraging the careers of many nurses by highlighting the amazing work that is completed daily.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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