Experience in Med/Surg or not?

  1. I know they always say to get a year or a couple years of experience in Med/Surg, and I am NO WHERE near deciding where I want to work yet, but I was just wondering something. Now I know they say this to gain experience and in case you don't like a certain specialty you can fall back on your med/surg experience, but say you went straight into a specialty and you hated it after 5 years. Now couldn't you go to med/surg then? 5 years after you graduate and dislike a specialty? What would be the difference of doing it before or after? I also know that med/serg gives you a lot of experience that you can use IN a specialty. So can anyone tell me if there is any more benefits of doing med/surg before or after you dislike a specialty? I mean this is assuming you will even dislike it. I always thought that if I wanted to do a certain specialty, I would want to go right into it if that was possible, and then if I didn't like it or whatever, then do Med/Surg. I am just curious, I don't really need to decide anything until about, oh 3.5 years! I was just wondering. Thanks!

    Sorry if this has already been covered, I tried searching and couldn't come up with anything!

    EDIT: I just wanted to clarify and say that I know med-surg IS a specialty and I have a lot of respect for nurses in this field! I am not saying by any means that it should always just be used as a step to another unit! I also am not saying I will not like it, I have had NO nursing classes or clinicals, so I have NO idea where I want to work! I could change my mind 6 times by the time I graduate!
    Last edit by slou! on Nov 15, '06 : Reason: clarification
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  2. 28 Comments

  3. by   aakrn
    Alot of nurses think the best is to do a year or two of med-surg. It is very benefical before entering a "speciality". It gives you the opportunity to get your skillls down pat. I also know many nurses who went right into CCU, ER right out of school and are doing fine. I think its a personal choice. I myself did not know which route to take- I knew I didnt want to do med surg but was strongly advised to. I have been a med surg nurse for five years now. I like it alot.
  4. by   sister--*
    Just my two cents worth.

    I think Med-Surg is tremendously valuable. It lets you hone-in and more fully develop your nursing skills and definately enhances critical thinking. It provides you a wide variety of learning experiences and perhaps gives you a more specific insight into what you truly would like to specialize in as there is so much out there. It teaches you to prioritize, to organize, and to use your time most effectively.

    It also gives you experience in seeing and utilizing all your resources. It teaches you how to become an effective advocate for patients, and a valuable team-member.

    I've known several nurses that have by-passed Med-Surg coming out of Nursing School and are now terrified of hospital nursing because of their lack of skills and the ever-changing technology. In effect, they have limited their possibilities.

    I vote for Med-Surg first. It isn't easy, but, it will serve you well!
  5. by   texas_lvn
    I myself, went straight into HH and LTC. I was a LVN. Now that I am going back for my RN, I have decided to go thru EC, and realize the importance of the med/surg, thus having to go get that experience. The pay sucks. I lost over 7 dollars an hour going from HH to M/S!!!! So I have to work overtime, and alot of it, to make what I was making. If you would have asked me 3 years ago, I would have said you can easily forego the experience. Now, my ignorance has caught up and here I am. I say, go for at least 6 months to a year. You will see different things, and it will be well worth your time. Good luck.
  6. by   PamperedRN
    I went straight from nursing school to critical care. One of the reasons I was hired was because I had also been a student extern in CVICU. I had had some experience with critical care. Also my hospital provides a great critical care oreintation. My preceptor was wonderful. I think it pays to look into the orientation you would receive if you go into a specialty. If it has a thorough orientation then I would say go straight to the specialty. But it will not hurt to get the med/surg experience either. My piece of advice is stick with whatever you chose for at least one year. Even when you hate it. It makes a sense of accomplishment and shows commitment. Good luck
  7. by   Tweety
    If there is a good training program in the speciality, I say go to the speciality. I don't like working with people who really don't want to be med surg nurses but are paying dues.

    Work med-surg because you want to work med surg. And yes, in five years after a speciality you can always choose med surg.

    Good luck in whatever you do.
  8. by   slou!
    Thanks everyone for your replies! Like I said I have a lot of time to think about it! My goal right now is to do something in OB or NICU, but that could change once I go through clinicals! Which still won't be for another year and a half! I was just curious.
  9. by   subee
    Quote from slou!
    Thanks everyone for your replies! Like I said I have a lot of time to think about it! My goal right now is to do something in OB or NICU, but that could change once I go through clinicals! Which still won't be for another year and a half! I was just curious.



    Don't worry about your specialty now - just do the clinicals and see what happens. However, just want to add that med-surg IS a specialty and 2. Nothings sadder than watching an OB nurse try to take care of a sick patient in OB who's never had any med-surg experience to fall back on. Bad things don't happen often in OB but when they do, its awful because two patients are involved. Its not the same when someone skips med-surg to go to critical care because patients come to critical care from all over the hospital with a variety of diagnoses and you will learn to respond quickly to resuscitative issues. In OB you rarely have to resuscitate somebody and that's why its appreciated when you have an OB nurse who's done it several times before and can respond quickly and appropriately.
  10. by   SharonH, RN
    Quote from Tweety
    If there is a good training program in the speciality, I say go to the speciality. I don't like working with people who really don't want to be med surg nurses but are paying dues.

    Work med-surg because you want to work med surg. And yes, in five years after a speciality you can always choose med surg.

    Good luck in whatever you do.


    What Tweety said.


    Med-surg is a specialty in and of itself, not "general" nursing and not a training ground for new nurses before they move on to the real stuff. If you have an interest in a specialty then go for it.
  11. by   pagandeva2000
    I have pondered this as well, being a new LPN. I worked in a hospital clinic as an aide, and the same hospital paid my way to become an LPN, in fact, I was on a paid leave of absence the whole time. When I returned as a nurse, I assumed that as a new graduate, they would automatically place me in med-surg, but my superiors liked me so much that they pulled strings to bring me back in the clinic, and as a formality, I worked two months in med-surg. I admit, I hated med-surg, and the clinic is safer for me to work, and, I have regular hours, weekends and holidays off. I am able to sychronize my knowledge better in the clinic, but I do worry about losing skills.
  12. by   veggiegarden
    Having gone though a bit of med/surg--which I was not interested in at all, but knew it would be "good for me"--I say go with what interests you. True, I learned a great deal in my short stint in med/surg--and anyone who goes the "med/surg-first-route" will have an opportunity to learn and practice many different skills (much to their advantage)--I have found it has gotten harder and harder to work in a specialty I truly do not enjoy. Unless you have to, I don't see why *anyone* should tough out a year or two in a specialty they hate--be it med/surg or whatever.

    So, if you end up enjoying med/surg or are able to tough it out for the benefit of your career, by all means do so. But I am no longer of the opinion that med/surg must always come first.
  13. by   RNsRWe
    Just a bit of food for thought, but depending on the unit/specialty and the hospital you're interested in, you might find that a base 1-2 years experience in M/S is required. That's the case in the hospital I'm in, where they won't look at you for either ICU or OB unless you have M/S experience. The exception to that is when they need floats to ICU: in which case, they take us from M/S first.

    Personally, I never thought I'd ever work M/S, since it was the worst rotation of my nursing school time. How ironic that it was the best opportunity offered to me when I began applying, and more ironically: I now LOVE M/S! True, it's hard as hell, the pace is insane, the ability to prioritize and organize is essential when you start (and you'll sharpen that skill tremendously as time goes by). Now, although I struggle with time management and the sheer quantity of Stuff You Must Know for assessments, etc, I'm SO glad I made this choice. I really feel that once I have this base, **IF** I decide to go somewhere else, I'll be so much more comfortable than if I hadn't done this work. But you know, I don't know I'm going anywhere anytime soon
  14. by   pagandeva2000
    Quote from veggiegarden
    Having gone though a bit of med/surg--which I was not interested in at all, but knew it would be "good for me"--I say go with what interests you. True, I learned a great deal in my short stint in med/surg--and anyone who goes the "med/surg-first-route" will have an opportunity to learn and practice many different skills (much to their advantage)--I have found it has gotten harder and harder to work in a specialty I truly do not enjoy. Unless you have to, I don't see why *anyone* should tough out a year or two in a specialty they hate--be it med/surg or whatever.

    So, if you end up enjoying med/surg or are able to tough it out for the benefit of your career, by all means do so. But I am no longer of the opinion that med/surg must always come first.
    I appreciate hearing this perspective, because I really hated med-surg. I will probably do some overtime up there, if allowed, but somehow, I think that the Creator placed me where I need to be, and while I do feel a bit insecure not having med/surg experience, I have to realize that no matter what, I AM a NURSE.

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