Each year the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses (AMSN) celebrates med-surg nurses with Medical-Surgical Nurses Week.

This year, Medical-Surgical Nurses Week runs from November 1-7 and helps bring attention to this broad and complex nursing specialty.

According to AMSN, medical surgical nurses are a vital part of a healthcare team, juggling many different duties with top-notch patient care, including the following:

  • Being advocates and activists for their patients and patient care protocols
  • Using evidence-based practices to inform the patient care they give
  • Educating the public, patients, and families on healthcare and the nursing profession
  • Researching for healthcare improvements
  • Supporting others in the nursing profession and acting as mentors and proponents within the med-surg specialty
  • Working for the best patient care practices by encouraging and promoting certification and high standards in nursing

Med-surg nurses work primarily in a hospital setting and care for patients who have been admitted for illness, are recovering from surgery, or are receiving treatment for ongoing chronic conditions that require hospital care. Med-surg nurses are registered nurses, and they work with adult, not pediatric, patients.

Nurses in this specialty are trained to recognize, diagnose, treat, and manage a variety of conditions as the patient population and their health conditions are diverse. Nurses in this role are treating many patients at once, helping their team coordinate and provide the proper care, monitoring medications, and watching for changes that could indicate an improvement or decline.

These nurses also work with families of the patient to help them understand what’s going on, the treatment plans, what will happen after the patient goes home, and what they can do to help.

These nurses also help patients who do not have strong support systems, so they are able to receive necessary care when they go home using various community, government, and local resources to pull together a plan of care.

Because they do not focus on one specialty, med-surg nurses have vast knowledge about what could present for a patient. One patient who arrives with sepsis from a wound could progress to pneumonia. Or a patient who comes in complaining of a sore shoulder could be having heart troubles. Med-surge nurses are alert to these changes and watch for red flags for all their patients.

Med-surg nursing is the largest nursing specialty in the nation, with the AMSN estimating approximately 650,000 med-surg nurses in the United States. Most nursing students will complete at least one med-surg clinical as it offers a broad application of all the skills nursing students are learning.

If students choose to move into a med-surg career, they will want to obtain certification, which can be as a Certified Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse (CMSRN®) or as an RN-BC.

Medical-surgical nurses are the engine of many healthcare and hospital settings. Celebrating the hard work they do is a welcome recognition for their efforts.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil is a freelance writer based in Bolton, Massachusetts.
Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

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