What is med/surg nursing?

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    Hi! Could anyone please explain to me what is med/surg nursing? Should new graduates start off doing med/surg?

    I'm offered a job on a general medicine unit and neurology/ neurosurgical unit...I don't know what to choose. I heard from other people that it's good to start of on med/surg so you'll get exposure to various of things. Would neuro. nursing be too specific for a new grad? Or does neuro. count as med/surg? Oh...I'm so confused!!! Please help!
  2. 4 Comments so far...

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    Hmmmm.... first off, congrats on graduating!!!! :hatparty:

    Med-surge nursing, in my opinion, is rather hard to define actually. Everyone who has ever done it may have their own opinion. I have two definitions:

    A med-surge nursing unit would be defined as any inpatient unit in which just about all of the basic skills that you learned in nursing school are put to the test. On a med-surge unit you are likely to insert foley catheters, start IV's, change all different kinds of dressings, give lots of different types of medications, do lots of charting, admit patients, discharge patients... in addition, on what I would define as a TRUE med-surge unit, you will encounter MANY different types of patients of many different ages, with many different problems. To me, the neurology/neurosurgery unit DOES sound a bit more specialized than the general medicine unit; however I myself still believe that you will get great experience on the neurology unit. I believe that on that unit, you will definately still use most, if not all, of your nursing skills.

    Here's another way that I define med-surge... a more generic, yet perhaps controversial definition.

    If you are working in:

    An ER
    A Labor/Delivery Hall
    A Nursery
    An Operating Room
    An Endoscopy Unit
    A Psychiatric Ward
    A Dialysis Clinic
    A Nursing Home

    ... than you are NOT a med-surge nurse. I believe that in a lot of these specialties, many learned skills go by the wayside. They are GOOD specialties mind you, but they won't give you the experience honing all of the practical skills, that med-surge nursing will.
    beth2366 likes this.
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    Hi RealNurseWitch! Thank you for your reply! I was wondering, what kind of patients (diagnosis) would be in a general medicine unit?

    I'm hoping to work in a postpartum (maternal-newborn) unit in the future. Would general medicine be more useful than neuro since I get more exposure to things where as neuro is more specific???

    I heard there is a high turnover rate in med/surg...is it because many nurses use med/surg as a stepping stone and then they switch to another unit? Or it is because med/surg is very stressful and not a good unit to work on?

    Thank you!
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    Quote from NCLEX_CareBear
    Hi RealNurseWitch! Thank you for your reply! I was wondering, what kind of patients (diagnosis) would be in a general medicine unit?

    I'm hoping to work in a postpartum (maternal-newborn) unit in the future. Would general medicine be more useful than neuro since I get more exposure to things where as neuro is more specific???

    I heard there is a high turnover rate in med/surg...is it because many nurses use med/surg as a stepping stone and then they switch to another unit? Or it is because med/surg is very stressful and not a good unit to work on?

    Thank you!
    I'm a med/surg nurse in a small city hospital, and I see just about everything on my unit.......cardiac patients on telemetry, diabetics (LOTS of them), bariatric pts, detox, psych, cancer, orthopedics, even a pt with porphyria who comes in for a few days every 6-8 weeks. Personally, I like surgical nursing much better than medical......the medical pts are there generally because of lifestyle issues (obesity, smoking, ETOH use etc.) or because the nursing home needs a break from them, and we see the same people over and over again. Caring for these pts can be very frustrating, and I think it's what causes a lot of nursing burnout. However, I love med/surg because it's NEVER boring, you just never know what's going to come up to your floor from the ER, and sometimes you really can make a difference in someone's life.

    I won't deny that it's very stressful........pts who aren't wanted by other units tend to get 'dumped' on us, and since we aren't staffed as well as the so-called 'specialty' units, we often have to scramble like mad to meet their needs as well as those of our more traditional pts. But there's nothing like med/surg nursing to teach a nurse those all-important critical thinking skills, and it gives you such a broad view of the conditions that can afflict human beings........I would recommend at least trying it for a year or two, who knows, maybe you'll learn to love it!
    marialaughs and bravone1 like this.
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    Yeah, I was gonna say that on a general medicine unit, you are likely to see mostly persons with exacerbations of COPD (emphysema, asthma, etc), diabetes, heart disease, etc.. And yes, I too have found that many of the people on our general medical unit are there because of poor lifestyle choices, and it IS frustrating because they are there once or twice a month. And yes, our general med. unit does see a lot of nursing home patients.

    Now, I work on a post-surgical unit. I mostly take care of persons who are recuperating from hip surgery, knee surgery, gallbladder surgery, bowel resection surgery, etc.. Our unit also receives all urology patients, MOST oncology patients, and all pediatric patients. PLUS, we receive the "spillover" from the general medicine unit.

    I'll tell ya... if you want some really good experience... go work in a community hospital! You will REALLY see everything then, because the hospital is just too small for specialized units! (Other than OB, the ER, OR, etc...)


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