The Job of a Surgical Nurse

If you have entered a hospital to have surgery you have come in contact with a surgical nurse. All surgical patients admitted to a hospital will be assigned a surgical nurse who will help them before, during and after the surgery. They often have the most contact time and knowledge of the patient during their hospital stay. A good surgical nurse will make sure you are prepared mentally and physically for surgery as well as through the entire recovery process.

Education and Salary

A surgical nurse is a specialized field within the nursing community. First you must obtain a registered nursing certificate or a Bachelor of Science in nursing which usually takes between three and four years, depending on how many classes you take at one time. Once you are a registered nurse you can pick a field of specialty, like a surgical nurse, this will require either a master’s or doctoral degree, which can take two to four additional years.

Once you have become a registered nurse and then obtained your specialty degree as a surgical nurse you can expect to earn approximately $55,000 to $75,000 annually working in the field. The numbers fluctuate depending on the state you work in, years of experience, bonuses and stock options.

Duties and Responsibilities

As a surgical nurse you have interaction with the patient before, during and after their surgery. Here are some of the duties required of a surgical nurse in each stage.

  • Pre-Operative: Often the surgical nurse will go over all paper work with the patient once they have arrived, including identification labels on bracelets, ensuring the required blood work is done, and noting any and all allergies. Before surgery, they discuss the surgical procedure along with possible complications and outcomes with the patient. The surgical nurse will start the IV and ensure that the patient is stable enough to go into surgery. They will clean the area as needed.
  • During Surgery: A surgical nurse is really the right hand of the surgeon. They prepare and sterilize all instruments that might be used. They monitor the status of the patients and well as the devices being used in surgery. They are there to react and respond to anything that may go wrong and ensure the surgery is successful.
  • Post-Operative: A surgical nurse is often the first face a patient sees in the recovery room and they will watch over the patient carefully for any signs of shock. They check vital signs, start to administer medications, treat the wound and explain the outcome of the surgery. They will usually give information to the patients as well as the family members who might be taking care of them after they have been released from the hospital’s care. The surgical nurse ultimately is responsible for the discharge of the patient and well as supporting them throughout their recovery.

Where are the Surgical Nurse Jobs?

The most common place for a surgical nurse to work is in a hospital. There are many different types of surgery you could assist in as a surgical nurse in a hospital. The most common surgeries include: general Surgeries, orthopedic surgeries, vascular surgeries, urological surgeries, colo-rectal surgeries and working in the emergency room. However, surgical nurses aren’t limited to just big hospitals. There are surgeries performed in smaller clinics, specialty offices like those that do plastic surgery and even one-day surgery clinics for vision correction.

Being a Successful Surgical Nurse

It takes more than just a good education to be a good surgical nurse. You will be part of many different types of surgeries and must know the specifics involved with each one. You must be a team player, a surgical team performs every surgery and it could be fatal for the patients if you do not work cohesively together. You must also have good communication and people skills as you are often dealing with stressed family members and highly emotional patients.


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