Surgical nurses are those who administer what is called perioperative care, or care before, during and after a surgical procedure. A surgical nurse prepares patients for surgery physically by closely monitoring vitals and administering necessary medications. Mentally, patients are prepared for surgery by surgical nurses who explain procedures, answer patient questions and provide emotional support. During surgery, the surgical nurse continues to monitor patient vitals and may also be in charge of assisting the surgeon by providing needed surgical instruments, keeping the surgical area clear for the doctor or any other various support services the leading surgeon may request. After the surgical procedure is complete, it is the job of the surgical nurse to continue to monitor vitals and administer necessary medications while monitoring the patient for any possible post-operative complications. Surgical nurses are often confused with surgery technicians who do not participate in pre and post-operative care of the patient, but instead assist surgeons during the procedure only.
Education and Certification Requirements
The educational criteria for becoming a surgical nurse vary by state. Generally, students interested in becoming surgical nurses will be required a minimum of an Associate’s degree, though a Bachelor’s degree is often necessary. Depending on both the state requirements and the individual desire for career advancement, nursing students may also need to take the National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse, become board certified through the American Nurse Credentialing Center or the Medical-Surgical Nursing Certification Board, or possibly obtain a Master’s degree in nursing. Continuing education is an important part of a career as a surgical nurse, and current nurses are often required to take classes or attend meetings or seminars in order to keep abreast of advances in medical technology or techniques.
Surgical nurses can choose from a variety of different work environments. Some surgical nurses are able to work with doctors of private clinics such as plastic surgeons. Other surgical nurses can work in individual hospital departments like pediatrics,or can choose to strictly work in either pre or post-operative areas of a hospital. Another option for surgical nurses is to work in the emergency surgical department, though nurses choosing to work in emergency should be prepared to work at a fast pace in a high stress environment. Surgical nurses are also occasionally needed as part of a lab team or as part of a hospital team in charge of surgical data entry.
Nursing is always a high demand field and the demand for quality nurses has grown in recent years with a surge in population, particularly in the size of the aging population. Because of these surges, nursing, in general, is one of the largest growing careers in the United States. On average, a surgical nurse makes approximately 70,000 dollars annually, though this figure varies depending on the region in which the nurse works and on the experience level of the nurse. Opportunity for career advancement in the field of surgical nursing is great. Surgical nurses can choose to go on to become nurse practitioners, nursing teachers or managers of nursing. Surgical nurses may also enter into their field as a general surgical nurse and then choose to specialize their skills to one area of surgical practice.