The Case Against Med-Surg!

by jb2u

22,330 Views | 53 Comments

Imagine finally graduating from nursing school and being miserable for a whole year. Everyone should spend their first year in Med-Surg, or should they? This article attempts to offer an alternative to the belief that new nursing graduates should spend one year in Med-Surg before going on to something else.

  1. 33

    The Case Against Med-Surg!

    "I believe that everyone should spend their first year in Med-Surg." These are the words as spoken by the Director of my nursing school. As one that has always liked a challenge, I made my case as to why one shouldn't go to Med-Surg. I am not against Med-Surg nursing as a profession. My belief is that you should only go there if that is where your heart leads you. Going into Med-Surg, if that is not where you want to go, leads to lost time, wasted money, and lost sanity.

    If you follow the crowd to Med-Surg post-graduation, you will find yourself with a lost year. The year will not be wasted. Med-Surg offers the new graduate plenty of learning experience. Besides solidifying your nursing skills, you will also learn invaluable organizational skills that will serve you no matter where you end up spending your career. So, why not just go to Med-Surg then? Well, it depends on where you want to work. You can learn invaluable nursing and organizational skills in telemetry, renal, ICU, or just about any floor that you go to. This proves that going to Med-Surg for your first year is not needed in order to learn nursing or organizational skills. So, why would the year be lost? Let's say you really wanted to go into ICU nursing. If you go straight into ICU, you now have one year of ICU experience. In your second year, you will be an experienced ICU nurse. If you had listened to those that say, "spend a year in Med-Surg," you would be an experienced nurse without any ICU experience. Also, you do not even know if someone has an ICU position for you after your first year. You may be spending another miserable year in a position that you did not want in the first place.

    In addition to losing time, you will also be wasting money. I am not talking about your money. I am talking about the hospital's money. It cost the hospital good money to recruit and train a new graduate. What do they get for their money? They get to train a nurse for a whole year. It will take you a good full year to really get comfortable in nursing. After your first year, you should be able to take on any assignment. You should be able to organize and plan your nursing care without having questions for the experienced nurses. At the time when you are really ready to function, you are now telling your manager, "I'm sorry; I did my year in Med-Surg. I am off to the ICU." Now, the manager has to spend more money to recruit and train another nurse.

    Time and money may be lost, but you can always find misery. This one does not apply to everybody! I do know some Med-Surg nurses that love it; however, I have seen many new graduates, as well as experienced nurses, in Med-Surg in misery. I have witnessed several new graduates on Med-Surg crying. Nursing school prepares you for the NCLEX. Nothing prepares you to have 6-10 patients with 20 medications a piece, complex wound care, total cares, angry doctors, and short staffing. I would not want to put myself through all this just to get some nursing skills and learn how to organize my day!

    To truly enjoy your first year, I say go into the field that interests you most. You will spend that first year learning the medications that you need to know. You will learn how to care for the types of patients that you are interested in caring for. You will learn how to organize your day for the type of unit that you are on. I went straight into ICU. While my peers from school were running up and down the halls of Med-Surg, I was studying my two ICU patients. The first year I learned about vasopressors and advance life support. I learned the skills that helped me succeed and better contribute to my unit as I went into my second year. Learning is easier when you are interested in the subject. I really wanted to learn ICU; so, I got more from my first year. But most of all, I spent my first year happy!!
    Last edit by Joe V on Feb 6, '12
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  4. About jb2u

    JB2U is an experienced ICU, ER, and dialysis nurse. He went straight into ICU from nursing school and has enjoyed every minute of it. Currently, he works in the ER and is an assistant nurse manager for an acute dialysis unit.

    jb2u joined Apr '05 - from 'SC'. Age: 39 jb2u has '5' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'ICU, ER, Hemodialysis'. Posts: 2,256 Likes: 491; Learn more about jb2u by visiting their allnursesPage


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    53 Comments so far...

  5. 1
    Perhaps, many of the new grads who go into med-surg are not sure what exactly they see themselves doing in the future. I just accepted a job as a PCT on a med-surg floor, where I plan to stay my entire nursing school time(will be in a program Fall 2012). However, prior to that I was solely interested in ICU. I hope that being a tech in med-surg doesn't confine me to med-surg when I graduate and wish to be in a residency program.

    Still, most nursing students seem to want ICU, Peds, or L &D. Nothing else. That creates really stiff competition. Hopefully, my tech experience in med-surg will help me move forward to another department if I realize that med-surg is not for me.

    Many people are putting med-surg in the same category as LTC: a dead end
    This is simply not true, though, but its hard to dispel the stereotype.

    Thanks for the article!
    jb2u likes this.
  6. 2
    Quote from jb2u
    "I believe that everyone should spend their first year in Med-Surg." These are the words as spoken by the Director of my nursing school. As one that has always liked a challenge, I made my case as to why one shouldn't go to Med-Surg. I am not against Med-Surg nursing as a profession. My belief is that you should only go there if that is where your heart leads you. Going into Med-Surg, if that is not where you want to go, leads to lost time, wasted money, and lost sanity.

    If you follow the crowd to Med-Surg post-graduation, you will find yourself with a lost year. The year will not be wasted. Med-Surg offers the new graduate plenty of learning experience. Besides solidifying your nursing skills, you will also learn invaluable organizational skills that will serve you no matter where you end up spending your career. So, why not just go to Med-Surg then? Well, it depends on where you want to work. You can learn invaluable nursing and organizational skills in telemetry, renal, ICU, or just about any floor that you go to. This proves that going to Med-Surg for your first year is not needed in order to learn nursing or organizational skills. So, why would the year be lost? Let's say you really wanted to go into ICU nursing. If you go straight into ICU, you now have one year of ICU experience. In your second year, you will be an experienced ICU nurse. If you had listened to those that say, "spend a year in Med-Surg," you would be an experienced nurse without any ICU experience. Also, you do not even know if someone has an ICU position for you after your first year. You may be spending another miserable year in a position that you did not want in the first place.

    In addition to losing time, you will also be wasting money. I am not talking about your money. I am talking about the hospital's money. It cost the hospital good money to recruit and train a new graduate. What do they get for their money? They get to train a nurse for a whole year. It will take you a good full year to really get comfortable in nursing. After your first year, you should be able to take on any assignment. You should be able to organize and plan your nursing care without having questions for the experienced nurses. At the time when you are really ready to function, you are now telling your manager, "I'm sorry; I did my year in Med-Surg. I am off to the ICU." Now, the manager has to spend more money to recruit and train another nurse.

    Time and money may be lost, but you can always find misery. This one does not apply to everybody! I do know some Med-Surg nurses that love it; however, I have seen many new graduates, as well as experienced nurses, in Med-Surg in misery. I have witnessed several new graduates on Med-Surg crying. Nursing school prepares you for the NCLEX. Nothing prepares you to have 6-10 patients with 20 medications a piece, complex wound care, total cares, angry doctors, and short staffing. I would not want to put myself through all this just to get some nursing skills and learn how to organize my day!

    To truly enjoy your first year, I say go into the field that interests you most. You will spend that first year learning the medications that you need to know. You will learn how to care for the types of patients that you are interested in caring for. You will learn how to organize your day for the type of unit that you are on. I went straight into ICU. While my peers from school were running up and down the halls of Med-Surg, I was studying my two ICU patients. The first year I learned about vasopressors and advance life support. I learned the skills that helped me succeed and better contribute to my unit as I went into my second year. Learning is easier when you are interested in the subject. I really wanted to learn ICU; so, I got more from my first year. But most of all, I spent my first year happy!!


    Very nice! I spent my first year in LTC, that I hated......which turned into 6......and now I switched to peds HHC. I was also told to do a year in med/surg. I don't want to do med/surg. I didn't want to do LTC. I have an interest in peds, but my real love is OB. People look at me and tell me I am gonna hate it. Really?

    It's nice to see that new grads aren't just left to go to med/surg and LTC. I bet your first year of ICU was very stressful. I would like to hear more about it!
    jb2u and lindarn like this.
  7. 5
    Quote from karamarie91
    Perhaps, many of the new grads who go into med-surg are not sure what exactly they see themselves doing in the future. I just accepted a job as a PCT on a med-surg floor, where I plan to stay my entire nursing school time(will be in a program Fall 2012). However, prior to that I was solely interested in ICU. I hope that being a tech in med-surg doesn't confine me to med-surg when I graduate and wish to be in a residency program.

    Still, most nursing students seem to want ICU, Peds, or L &D. Nothing else. That creates really stiff competition. Hopefully, my tech experience in med-surg will help me move forward to another department if I realize that med-surg is not for me.

    Many people are putting med-surg in the same category as LTC: a dead end
    This is simply not true, though, but its hard to dispel the stereotype.

    Thanks for the article!
    Most hospitals won't hire a new grad. You need a year of M/S experience....or experience period!...these days to do anything, it seems like. I am not a new grad, but I will be a new grad RN in a year. Makes me nervous to think how job prospects will be then.
    Nurse_Diane, opossum, lindarn, and 2 others like this.
  8. 2
    "
    so, why would the year be lost? let's say you really wanted to go into icu nursing. if you go straight into icu, you now have one year of icu experience"

    "
    i went straight into icu."

    lol.

    students we have the answer!! just pick your specialty and start there. you don't need no med surg experience, just graduate, pick your specialty and show up.
    stephaniemaried and Psychtrish39 like this.
  9. 11
    I have to agree with the article. I knew from the very beginning that I wanted to be an NICU nurse and I went straight into the NICU. I have loved every minute of it and can't imagine myself anywhere else. Most of my fellow nursing-school graduates that went to the med-surg unit endured a very difficult year, some have even left the profession because of their experience/hardships on very busy med-surg floors. Follow your passion no matter what your specialty is. There is no reason you should toil on a floor if you don't want to be there...Life is too short and the work is too hard.
    adreamdeferred, LovedRN, hgrimmett, and 8 others like this.
  10. 9
    The hospital I work at has a ICU pathway program that takes med-surg nurses with at least 2 years of experience and puts them through a training similar to a new grad residency. It's 3-4 months of intense classroom and clinical time. If I sadly end up on med-surg my first 2 years, that might be a way to get into the ICU. I am going to do my best to get into ICU or ED after graduation. I work on what I would say is a good med-surg floor. I've done clinicals on different med-surg floors, including the one I work on now, and this one is much better. The staffing is pretty good on most days, and the nurses and CNAs help each other out, but med-surg is the pits no matter how good the floor is. For those who say med-surg experience can translate into experience into other specialties, they're wrong. Peds, L&D, postpartum, NICU and other areas have their own body of knowledge. Why waste time slogging in the pits when what happens in the end is that a nurse with 1 year of med-surg experience has to start from scratch when they specialize? And I'm glad someone made the argument about the costs of orienting a new grad to med-surg only to have to start all over after a year. I think it's more considerate to just not waste anyone's time if you don't want to go into med-surg.
    adreamdeferred, LovedRN, hgrimmett, and 6 others like this.
  11. 1
    I went straight into the ICU as a new grad and it was hard, but I wouldn't have had it any other way. It's a good point you raised about how they spend money training you as a MS nurse just for you to leave and in this economy it's tough to get a job as an ICU nurse without ICU experience even if you are experienced in MS.
    jb2u likes this.
  12. 2
    I plan to go straight into Psych when I graduate in May. Although, I am currently on an Oncology floor & my preceptor told me she would put in a good word for me. So who knows where I may end up. These days a job is a job, but my intention is to be a psych nurse and if I can get a psych position right out of school, then that is what I plan to do.
    Psychtrish39 and Meriwhen like this.
  13. 2
    Quote from jb2u
    Nursing school prepares you for the NCLEX. Nothing prepares you to have 6-10 patients with 20 medications a piece, complex wound care, total cares, angry doctors, and short staffing.


    jb2u you are soo right in my opinion. And since I couldnt cut it in med/surg I have had a heck of a time trying to land something else. Nursing really frustrates me....but what else is new?
    Last edit by jb2u on Jan 31, '12 : Reason: fixed quote
    opossum and lindarn like this.


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