Whether you’re a new grad needing to sharpen your skills, or a seasoned pro looking to stretch your wings, travel nurse jobs in medical-surgical nursing provide a great opportunity to care for others, while caring for yourself.
Once viewed as boot camp for any new nurse, medical-surgical nursing has grown into a specialty field for RNs with its own professional organization and certification process. When the word “specialty” comes into play, RN jobs typically involve specialized skills to provide specialized care to a specific type of patient. But when applied to the med-surg nurse, what’s specialized is the ability and expertise to care for patients of any age, with any condition, in any setting. On any given shift, a Med-Surg nurse could care for an asthmatic patient, a patient with diabetes, a patient with seizure disorder, and a patient suffering from an animal bite. These nurses need to have extensive knowledge in every area of patient focus and be able to care for many patients at the same time.
Med-surg nurses provide the nursing foundation for practically every care setting where adults seek care. According to Kathleen Singleton, RN, BSN, CNS, CMSRN, president of the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses (AMSN), med-surg nurses make up the largest niche in the field – 400,000 of the 2.9 million RNs in the country – and must adjust to constant change.
One of the most significant changes may be the higher acuity of patients to care for. Patients who used to be on the med-surg unit are now receiving intravenous treatment in their living rooms, and patients who used to be “critical” enough for the ICU are now one of the 5-7 patients in a typical assignment.
As one nurse says, “…on a med-surg unit you are likely to insert foley catheters, start IV’s, change different kinds of dressings, give lots of different types of medication, do lots of charting, admit patients, discharge patients…in addition, on what I would define as a TRUE med-surg unit, you will encounter MANY different types of patients of many different ages, with many different problems…”
Many hospitals are willing to hire new grads for that first RN job on a med-surg unit, and if you’re one of them, know what you’re getting into. Make sure there’s an adequate orientation, a structured preceptor program, and ongoing mentoring. No nursing program can provide everything you need. Once you hit the floor running with that RN behind your name, you’ll be expected to live up to the title, and you’ll need lots of help to do it.
Although we’re focusing on hospitals, med-surg nursing happens anywhere an adult is seeking care:
Many travel nursing jobs are available in hospital inpatient care units, where the size of the hospital has a big impact on the types of patients you’ll care for. Smaller community hospitals don’t have as many specialty units as do larger institutions. This creates overflow into the med-surg unit, a cornucopia of healthcare that is expected to accept every patient who is seeking some type of care. When looking for travel nurse jobs, research well, and pick the setting that suits your soul.
If you’re a variety junkie who’s easily bored, this specialty may be a perfect fit. You’ll have to think critically and constantly use every skill you’ve ever learned, and care for patients of all types and ages with acute and chronic illnesses, surgeries, and all possible combinations known to nurse kind.
In the midst of any given day, there will be routine overload, crises to solve, emergencies to manage, staffing to plan and colleagues to lead – as well as miles of tile upon which to chisel your calves and callous your feet.
You’ll build a portfolio of expertise that will serve you well in any setting – whether that be another med-surg unit, or different type of specialty. You won’t be afraid to take care of any patient, with any condition, of any age – not something most other specialty nurses can say. Med-Surg nursing can help you decide if and where you want to specialize–but some Med-Surg nurses don’t really want to specialize.
If you’re not already, you might want to consider becoming certified in medical-surgical nursing (CMSRN). Certification helps speaks to your expertise and your proof through certification that you are an expert in Med-Surg nursing. It can also help drive you to the top of the list with travel nursing agencies, putting the best Med-Surg RN jobs at your fingertips.
Depending on your stage in life, travel nursing provides many perks to appreciate. If you’re adventurous, it’s a great way to get paid to see the country before life responsibilities possibly keep you in one place. And if your family has grown up and moved out, maybe it’s time to put some stock in your own dreams.
A traveling nurse can make a great salary, satisfy that travel itch, meet new people, work in a variety of settings, and tap into the many benefits that travel nursing jobs have to offer. Just as every travel nursing job is different, so is every traveling contract. Length of assignment, salary, housing, and benefit options all vary based on the employer, location, and specialty area.
To find out more about med-surg nursing, check out the Academy of Medical Surgical Nurses (AMSN) and its publication, the MedSurg Journal. And if you’re adventuresome spirit has awakened, find out more about becoming a traveling nurse. See what others want to know, do a little research, and look into available RN jobs.
You, of all nurses, have nothing to fear. You’re a med-surg dynamo – able to care for any patient, of any age, in any setting…perhaps in any part of the country. Consider caring for others – while you care for yourself. Travel nursing just might get you there.
By Sue Montgomery, RN, BSN
Sue Montgomery, RN, BSN is a freelance healthcare writer and professional copywriter. In her 30 years as a registered nurse, Sue has held roles from staff nurse to administrator in critical care, hospice and the health insurance industry.