Charting Your Course: 8 Med-Surg Nursing Tips for a Successful Career 987839088534212 [9:30 AM] Katie Iglewski

You’ve been considering different nursing career paths and stumbled across med-surg nursing. The more you research, the more you realize this nursing specialty might be just what you’ve been looking for.

But you’ve got questions. Is med-surg nursing hard? What does it take to become a med-surg nurse? 

We’ve got the information you need.

Whether you’re just starting your first day of nursing school or have been in the field for years and want a change of pace, read on to find out how to become a med-surg nurse. 


Table of Contents



What Does a Med-Surg Nurse Do?

A med-surg nurse covers a variety of pre- and post-surgical tasks, including: 

  • Supporting ill or injured patients
  • Administering IVs
  • Dressing wounds
  • Preparing patients for procedures
  • Attending to patients’ needs while they are in the hospital

Are you considering a career as a med-surg travel nurse? Trusted Nurse Staffing’s Pronto job search makes it easy to find the perfect med-surg position today!


What Makes a Good Med-Surg Nurse?

Med-surg nursing can be difficult and stressful. A med-surg nurse must be well-trained and: 

  • Able to work well under tough conditions
  • Quick-thinking
  • Highly functional under pressure
  • Adept at working as part of a team

Keep reading for three tips on how to prepare for med-surg nursing


how to prepare for medsurg nursing



If you want to be a med-surg nurse, you will need to:

  1. Earn a degree in nursing or a similar field.
  2. Complete an RN program.
  3. Pass the NCLEX-RN exam.
  4. Become a fully licensed RN.
  5. Get a job on a med-surg floor.
  6. Pursue certification as a CMSRN (certified medical-surgical nurse) after completing two years and 2,000 hours of clinical experience.



As a med-surg nurse, you must be proficient in your clinical skills and knowledge. You need to be able to manage patients while providing comprehensive care in high-stress situations. 

You’ll be responsible for:

  • Administering medication
  • Arranging discharge plans for patients 
  • IV care 
  • Monitoring vitals
  • Updating patient records
  • Collaborating with the healthcare team
  • Performing dressing changes
  • Catheter care
  • Patent education
  • And more

Med-surg nurses need to be strong team members while also possessing the ability to work well alone. 



The ANCC Medical-Surgical Nursing Certification exam is completed following RN licensure. The exam is competency-based and assesses the entry-level clinical knowledge and skills of nurses entering the medical-surgical specialty.

The certification must be renewed every 5 years.

Some additional certifications you may wish to pursue within the med-surg specialty include: 

  • Certified Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse (CMSRN): This highly-recognized certification covers topics that include med-surg-specific nursing principles, clinical practices, and patient care.
  • Orthopedic Nursing Certification (ONC): This med-surg certification deals with musculoskeletal disorders and orthopedic nursing principles.
  • Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nursing Certification (WOCN): This certification is suitable for those wishing to enhance their skills in complex wound care and patient education.
  • Certified Post-Anesthesia Nurse (CPAN): This certification is for nurses desiring to work in med-surge post-anesthesia care units.




8 Med-Surg Nursing Tips for a Successful Career


Tip #1: Know the Med-Surg Admission and Discharge Processes Inside and Out

In the med-surg unit, patients constantly come and go — which means you’ll be admitting and discharging patient after patient. You may even end a shift with completely different patients than you had at the start. 

Each nursing unit has very specific processes for admitting, transferring, and discharging patients. That’s why taking the time to study and commit those processes to memory as soon as possible will make your life as a med-surg nurse that much easier.


Tip #2: Stay Up-To-Date On Current Nursing Trends

Nursing is an ever-changing field, and nurses need to evolve with it. 

Instead of getting blown over, use those winds of change to your advantage and stay ahead of them by:

  • Regularly reading industry publications
  • Participating in online and in-person learning opportunities
  • Attending nursing conferences 
  • Discussing med-surg nursing trends with your coworkers


med surg nursing tips


Tip #3: Take Advantage of Training and Development Opportunities

They say the older you grow, the more you find you have to learn. The same is true with nursing.

There is always something more you can learn about med-surg nursing or a new skill you can sharpen. 

You’ll want to have your technical skills honed and be able to respond quickly — and sometimes, creatively — to any issues that might arise. 

Making it a priority to take advantage of the various training and development opportunities that come your way will help ensure that you’re always on top of your game.


Tip #4: Pursue Challenging Opportunities 

Growth doesn’t take place in stagnant waters.

If you want to grow and become a better nurse, you need to intentionally challenge yourself. 

Stay ahead of the curve by keeping an open mind and trying new things. Exploring different nursing paths is a great way to make sure you stay relevant. Try to stay up to date on different nursing trends and opportunities — such as travel nursing. 

As a traveling med-surg nurse, you’ll have the chance to work in multiple types of facilities all across the country without having to constantly change career paths. Not only do travel nurses gain a wealth of experience and have a ton of fun, but they also get great benefits. 

With Trusted Nurse Staffing, travel nurses can count on:

  • The highest pay rates in the industry
  • Travel, housing, and meal stipends
  • Health insurance 
  • Wellness benefits
  • Flexible contracts
  • Much more

Trusted Nurse Staffing offers benefits like no other agency. Our nurses are our priority, and supporting you is why we exist. 




Tip #5: Stay Organized and Have a Positive Attitude

This is one of the major med-surg must-knows. Keeping positive is important no matter what your career choice might be but, in nursing, positivity is essential. 

Nursing, especially med-surg nursing, can be a stressful and draining field. 

If your mind is not a healthy place to be, you may find yourself struggling. Do your best to stay organized, both physically and mentally. If your space is messy and cluttered, your mind will likely be, too. 

Try having an evening each week when you tidy your space and then sit down to plan out your week. Pro tip — a glass of wine or a bowl of ice cream is all but scientifically proven to make this process more productive and enjoyable. 

Make sure you include time for yourself and those you love. And remember, it is important to let work stay at work instead of allowing it to overrun your personal life. 

We all have rough days and it is okay to feel down. But if you are constantly feeling worn out and finding it hard to look at the world through a positive lens, you may want to take that as a sign you need to spend a little more time caring for yourself.


Tip #6: Network With Other Nurses

Never underestimate the power of people. 

Networking is a great way to learn new information and make meaningful connections that can lead to career advancement. 

Studying and self-improvement matter, but, more often than not, it all boils down to who you know, not what you know. 

A few ideas for networking include: 

  • Attending hospital-wide events
  • Hanging out with fellow nursing staff on the weekend
  • Taking in a regional conference

Your later self will thank you. 


Tip #7: Don’t Be Afraid To Ask for Help

The beautiful thing about growing is that it means you haven’t arrived yet — and that is okay. 

We all need a leg up and a shoulder to cry on now and then. 

Especially when you first move to med-surg, you might find yourself feeling a little disoriented and lost. That’s okay — no one is expected to be an expert on their first day. 

Ask current med-surg nurses for help and find out what got them to where they are. They’ve been in your shoes, and they know what it’s like to step foot onto the med-surg unit for the very first time. 

Remember, asking for help shows you are self-aware and eager to learn and grow. 


Tip #8: Get To Know Your Med-Surg Nursing Assistants

Your certified nursing assistants (CNAs) are a critical component of the med-surg nursing team. Don’t walk in on your first day, guns blazing, ordering them around.

As much as possible, take the time to get to know them before you start delegating. Let them know you respect their time and expertise, making them feel like valued members of the team.

Ask their opinions, offer to help them, and seek to know them as individuals. This will make a huge difference in how the entire med-surg team functions and the impact will be felt by the team and patients alike. 


how to survive medsurg nursing


Should You Consider a Career in Med-Surg Nursing?

Do you have the required training and certifications? Do you feel passionate — or at least interested — in med-surg nursing? Do you love seeing many different types of patients and working with various medical systems?

If so, you may want to consider a career as a med-surg nurse. 


Interested in a Med-Surg Travel Nursing Career? Find Your Dream Travel Nurse Assignment on Pronto 

Travel nursing is a growing industry and Trusted Nurse Staffing is looking for qualified, ambitious nurses who are ready to take their careers to the next level. 

If you are interested in med-surg nursing, why not consider med-surg travel nursing? It’s the perfect way to combine the experience and opportunities of med-surg nursing with the unbeatable perks of travel nursing. 

Do you want to travel and experience new cultures and cities? 

How do you feel about leveling up your paychecks by upping your hourly wage and cashing in on travel, meal, and housing stipends? 

Are you ready to take charge of your life and decide where and when you want to work? 

If you answered yes to any of these questions, med-surg travel nursing might be for you! 

Simply use the Pronto job search to find available travel nurse assignments and set yourself on the path to a satisfying, adventure-filled career.