Did you start as a med-surg nurse? What specialty are you now?

Nurses General Nursing


I've been a med-surg nurse for 3 months now (first nursing job). I'm not happy and this job has made my already existing anxiety a lot worse. I always have 6 patients and I feel like I don't have enough time to complete all my documentation and get to know them. The job is so stressful and at times I find myself running around so much that I don't feel like I'm doing the best for my patients. My reasoning behind choosing med-surg is because most of the other specialties wanted experience. I also heard that med-surg is a good place to start for a new nurse. I'm just not happy though. I feel like all I'm doing is giving medications out, answering my patient's call bells, and documenting on the computer.

What are some specialties where there is a better nurse to patient ratio? I feel like having 3 or 4 patients at a time sounds best for me. Before getting this med-surg job I wanted to go into post-partum or pediatrics. Now I'm looking for jobs as a school nurse or a doctor's office nurse.

Any advice is appreciated! What path did you take as a new nurse?

Specializes in Med Surg, Tele, PH, CM.

Always been my feeling that Med/Surg is the best place for a new grad to start. Specialty floors seem to expect more of you than a new grad is often prepared to give. I worked Med/Surg for 10 years because my hubby was active duty Air Force and it was the easiest floor to step into every 3-4 years. When he retired, I said goodbye to Med/Surg and bedside nursing. Went first to Public Health, which I loved, then to Case Management, which is my passion. I would not be as good a CM as I am if it were not for my years in M/S. There are so many paths available to nurses, just take your time. 

I've been in med/surg for ten years, although I also work in behavioral health from time to time. My first job was hellish. My second job was slightly better, but still very challenging. My third job is great. No job would be even better, but I think I have it about as good as it can get.

Point is, experience makes all the difference. Not only is work easier to deal with on a day to day basis, but you also discover what's important to you when you're seeking employment.

I worked med-surg for my first year of nursing. I also always had six patients and depended heavily on an aide who might or might not be helpful. 

For the past 21 years I have been working with one or two patients at a time in ICU. Some days I work just has hard as I did in med-surg, but I feel I am able to give better patient care. It helps that I work in a non-toxic unit with good team work. 

Looking back, life as a new nurse is difficult anywhere. Med-surg is often a place willing to hire and train a new grad. Compared to my coworkers who have never worked outside of ICU, I have an appreciation of how lucky we are to have doctors easily accessible, to have our staffing needs taken more seriously. Med-surg taught me how to power through a shift when things get chaotic. Med-surg taught me that time is a precious resource and how to get things done efficiently. 

Specializes in oncology.
On 10/20/2020 at 6:15 AM, RNperdiem said:

Compared to my coworkers who have never worked outside of ICU, I have an appreciation of how lucky we are to have doctors easily accessible, to have our staffing needs taken more seriously.

Thank you for recognizing this. On a medical/surgical floor, assessment skills are so important because you don't have access to other professionals or equipment.

Specializes in Med-Surg, NICU.

I started in adult med/surg then changed my FTE to go to NICU. I consider them to be both of my specialties, and while med/surg stresses the hell out of me, I still think it is a GREAT place to learn and think that unless you plan to go into peds, NICU as I think med/surg is the foundation of other adult specialties (ICU, ER, etc).

Specializes in New Critical care NP, Critical care, Med-surg, LTC.

I went from LTC to med-surg to ICU and I think that in every environment I gained valuable skills that helped me progress to providing care in a higher acuity environment. I think med-surg is a great place to start in the acute environment because you do see everything. You see patients that aren't as sick, you see some that progress to needing a higher level of care, and you really learn to manage your time and complete focused assessments. It is unfortunate that with healthcare's current state, the patient to nurse ratios often make it difficult to spend significant time with the patients. But even in the ICU, when I have only two patients, I find there are days when I don't have time to do all the things I want to. If you have one crashing patient, you just cross your fingers that the other one remains stable and your coworkers can cover the little stuff. If you're busy coordinating trips to CT scan, surgical procedures, tracking down docs and consultants, updating family, etc. there will always be something pulling us away from the patients. 

You're still so new it's all going to be overwhelming. Do your best and as you increase your speed with some of the little things, you will find you have more time for the things you want to do for your patients. Much of your time will always be meds, charting and call bells, that's the current backbone of acute care nursing. You'll find increasing comfort with time and I hope you find you enjoy it more. Good luck!

Specializes in General Internal Medicine, ICU.

I started out in med-surg. Worked 8 years on an Internal Medicine unit before transferring to the ICU this past Summer. I feel that my med-surg experience have definitely helped me with the transition, and it wasn’t as steep of a learning curve for me going into ICU as I already knew how to be a nurse.

Specializes in NICU.

I started out in adult med-surg for 3 years and then went to the NICU. I'll never work with icky adults again!

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