November 1 through November 7 is designated Medical-Surgical Nurses week each year, honoring full-time, part-time and travel medical-surgical nurses across the nation. Of the more than three million RNs practicing in the United States, the AMSN has estimated that at least 650,000 are medical-surgical nurses.
While the Academy of Medical- Surgical Nurses (AMSN) wants to identify and recognize their many contributions all year-round, this is the week to help your facility and community go the extra mile to recognize the compassion and commitment of med-surg nurses who form the base of nearly all types of nursing care.
The Critical Role of the Med-Surg Nurse
If you’re a med-surg nurse, don’t hesitate to spread the word about what you do. If you aren’t, you should know that these dedicated professionals who work as permanent staff as well in temporary travel nursing jobs, play a critical role, practicing primarily in hospital units caring for adult patients who are acutely ill with a wide range of health issues and diseases, or who are recovering from surgery. The large number of med-surg nurses makes this the single largest nursing specialty in the U.S. While they once only provided routine bed baths, back rubs and gave the occasional medication, their role today has become much more complex, including responsibilities like caring for patients with cardiac monitoring, post-op patients with open wounds, tending central lines and ensuring complex medication regimens are managed correctly.
Med-surg nurses are master multi-taskers, kind of like the air traffic controllers of their hospital units. They’re required to have a wide range of top-notch skills for juggling the care of several patients at once, administrating their medications, admitting new patients while discharging others, educating their families – all while ensuring the entire healthcare team stays on the same page. These RNs must have high-level critical thinking skills, the ability to stay calm under pressure, and have a vast knowledge of the body and all its systems, as well as disease states. They have to be prepared and ready for anything and everything as they never know what complex disease states their next patient might have.
The backbone of adult patient care, medical-surgical nurses can function in diverse healthcare settings, not only in hospitals, but homecare facilities, physicians’ offices and clinics. While all need to be willing to accept diversity and change as a new learning experience, it’s even more important for a med-surg travel nurse as each facility is different.
Becoming a Med-Surg Nurse
To become a med-surg nurses you need to obtain at least an associate degree in nursing, though a bachelor’s degree is generally preferred. Medical-surgical nursing is often the first step a new licensed RN takes in their professional career, as there are internship programs for this specialty at most hospitals and these jobs are also some of the most abundant in the industry. There are many opportunities for learning while working as part of the healthcare team too, with many different types of patients that come through every day, providing a wide variety of experiences.
How to Honor Medical-Surgical Nurses
Honoring medical-surgical nurses includes honoring yourself if you are in this role, along with your colleagues, while also helping your facility and community recognize the hard work you do. You can visit AMSN.org for ideas – you’ll find official posters on the organization’s website as well as opportunities to purchase lapel pins and name badge ribbons. Share photos and talk about what med-surg nurses do on social media networks like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn too.
Facilities might host a special lunch, bringing in meals for med-surg nurses during their shift and post celebratory signs in the unit. Both nurses and facilities can get the news out to their communities too. Write an email or letter to the editor of your local newspaper, or even invite a local or state legislator to come tour your facility to find out more about what med-surg nurses do.
There are few people who haven’t experienced the helping hand of a med-surg nurse at some point in their lives – this is the time for everyone to honor them, and for the nurses themselves to make it known just how critical their role is in the healthcare system.