Many people who are considering nursing as a vocation have questions about a medical-surgical nurse career. There seems to be a lot of confusion on the part of future nurses as to just what this designation means, and what medical-surgical (med-surge) nurses do. Are they specialized nurses? Are they general nurses? Are these medical jobs, or surgical jobs, or both? This confusion is understandable, especially in today’s nursing environment, where many nurses are now certified in a particular specialty, such as pediatrics, oncology, psychiatric, operating room, emergency room, etc. In this article, we’ll answer these questions and clear up any confusion about a medical-surgical nurse career, and explain what med-surge nurses are, the education required to become one, and job and salary prospects now and in the near future.
There are several reasons for the confusion. One is that “medical-surgical nurse” sounds like a very broad designation. Truth be told, it really is a broad designation. At the same time, medical-surgical nursing is also a branch of specialty nursing, even while many non-specialty nurses are described as med-surge nurses. However, the confusion is easy to clear up. Modern nursing is only a little over a century old; it came of age with modern medicine. In the early days, all nurses were medical-surgical nurses; there were no specialty nurses. All nurses spent their days assisting doctors and surgeons with both medicine and surgery. This is where the term originated. As nursing became more advanced, and more and more specialized nursing categories were created, “general” nursing came to be known as medical-surgical nursing.
However, there is a branch of specialized nursing that is also known as medical-surgical nursing, and which requires certification. At the same time, most non-specialty nurses are often referred to as medical-surgical nurses. The key to understanding the difference is remembering that when the term “medical-surgical nurse” is used informally, it’s usually understood to refer to generalized nursing. When it’s used formally, it’s usually referring to the med-surge specialty that requires certification. Keep in mind that many of the nurses who choose to become certified as medical-surgical nurses do so in order to qualify for a different specialization, some of which require the med-surge certification as a prerequisite.
In order to qualify for a medical-surgical nurse career, a person will need to possess the RN designation, which stands for registered nurse. This is done by earning either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing. Generally speaking, the associate’s degree will usually take two years to earn, while the bachelor’s will require four years of schooling. In either case, after graduation the prospective nurse must pass the NCLEX-RN, which is the national certification test for registered nurses. Should a nurse decide to seek the formal medical-surgical nurse designation, he or she will also need to pass the Certified Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse exam, or CMSRN.
No matter whether a nurse is known as a medical-surgical nurse informally or has been certified in that specialty, the outlook for employment and income is very good for the foreseeable future. America is already having difficulty dealing with a severe shortage of nurses, and this is only going to get worse in the foreseeable future, according to government projections. As of this writing, most nurses earn over $57,000 a year, while many earn over $70,000 annually. As the nursing shortage worsens, prospects for a medical-surgical nurse career will continue to improve.