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Is it wrong to stay in med-surg?

Specializes in Medical-Surgical. Has 5 years experience.

So, I have been an RN, BSN for 5 years.  I did one year at a subacute rehab before transferring to a med-surg floor in the same health system.  I really loved my floor, it was a small inter-City hospital that was kind of rough but I really enjoyed it and bonded well with all my coworkers under rough conditions.  
Recently, we had to relocate to a new state, where my husband is originally from(husband is finishing NP school and has several job opportunities in his hometown, plus we have more family to help with our kids).

I got a new job on a med-surg floor at a much larger, magnet/teaching hospital.  Very similar work and patients, but a lot more support staff which makes the job much easier.
The one thing that I’m feeling is this huge emphasis on getting out of med-surg as quick as  possible.  It’s like a revolving door of new grads and everyone acts like med-surg is the scum of the hospital and they cannot wait to move to a specialty.  There is also this huge divide of days vs nights. Everyone acts like night shift doesn’t do anything.  That division always existed on my other jobs, but it’s really intense here.

overall, I enjoy med-surg.  I like the large variety of patients I see.  I’ve been married to an ICU/ER nurse for years and I really admire him and enjoy all his life or death stories, but it’s just not an area for me.  I have had plenty of codes, crazy patients, rapid responses, exciting stories etc... but it’s not something I want every shift or even every week.  I just hate feeling like I’m being seen as less of a nurse.  There are only a handful of senior nurses that work on my very large floor. They suggested I sit for my CMSRN.

Any long time med-surg nurses out there?!?

speedynurse, ADN, RN, EMT-P

Specializes in ER, Pre-Op, PACU.

I am not a med surg nurse and never have been but I applaud you for staying in this speciality! ER is my background since I was a new grad.....I can run circles around the ER, but when I have hold patients, I struggle with time management the entire shift. I don’t know how you do it 👍Med surg is a skill of its own speciality.

Sour Lemon

Has 9 years experience.

I am 10 years in and work behavioral health and med/surg. I have no grand desire to do anything else. I do notice that the more recent graduates are in a huge hurry to get out ...not just from med/surg, but from the bedside altogether. I can't say it affects my own desires.

Shift wars suck, but I find they're most intense where staffing and support are poor. 


Specializes in ED, med-surg, peri op. Has 3 years experience.

At my last last hospital where I worked, most med/surg nurses had been there a long time and had no desire to move on. 

it’s OK to Work in med/surg, it is its own speciality! If you enjoy your job, then why change it? Stop worrying about what other people think.

I’m so over the bashing of floor nurses, or actually any nurse that doesn’t work in high acuity areas. No speciality is better than the other. 

On 9/11/2020 at 11:15 PM, Reds5588 said:

The one thing that I’m feeling is this huge emphasis on getting out of med-surg as quick as  possible.  It’s like a revolving door of new grads and everyone acts like med-surg is the scum of the hospital and they cannot wait to move to a specialty.

On 9/11/2020 at 11:15 PM, Reds5588 said:

There is also this huge divide of days vs nights. Everyone acts like night shift doesn’t do anything.

Regarding both of these topics (disdain for m/s and disparagement of night shift RN role) -- it's great that people are able to do what they want to do and are able to pursue their own goals and preferences. If they're happy with their choices then good for them. But when they constantly feel the need to portray others' work  in a negative light, that's a different deal. It really speaks more to them needing to reassure themselves that they're doing okay in life...and this behavior of scoffing at others' legitimate work is simply a manifestation of their own insecurity.

The fact is that your work is a blessing to many people.

Since you are providing an important service and you enjoy doing so, other's superficial portrayals are actually quite irrelevant.

If you want to be known as an expert med/surg nurse then go for it.


NightNerd, BSN, RN

Specializes in Med-surg/tele, palliative, psych. Has 6 years experience.

Go ahead and rock med-surg if that's where your heart is! I wouldn't say it was love at first sight for me, but there's a lot to like about med-surg - the variety, getting to see patients get better, providing education, and we get enough crazy medical and psych stories to keep it spicy. I don't feel any pressing need to move on from med-surg and wouldn't mind getting my CMSRN once I'm finished with school. There is plenty of expertise to gain and knowledge to share, and plenty of future nurses who will benefit from working with us happy med-surg nurses!

Uggghhhh, shift wars are the worst. In my experience, day shift is more consistently busy, but when things get bad on night shift, they are *really* bad. Plus, I feel like you give up so much of your life to work night shift, so if you get a few more decent shifts to make up for it, I think that's fair. And it's not one shift's fault if the other is outrageously busy, so all the fighting is useless.

Tweety, BSN, RN

Specializes in Med-Surg, Trauma, Ortho, Neuro, Cardiac. Has 28 years experience.

On 9/11/2020 at 11:15 PM, Reds5588 said:

Any long time med-surg nurses out there?!?

29 years and counting.  Been on my current unit ten years now.  I left for about six months 10 years ago and took and office job and hated it and returned to the floor six months later.  I've worked a variety of med-surg settings including trauma and neuro.  Was working post op unit, until Covid shut us down and we're now a mish mash of everything med-surg.  

Almost all of the new grads are interested in something else...two of them ER, one OR and two are in NP school.  Good for them.  It's a good stepping stone to something else but it does seem that we are considered the bottom rung of the ladder.  

Jedrnurse, BSN, RN

Specializes in school nurse. Has 25 years experience.

"Overall I enjoy med-surg." 

Great! If it ain't broke, don't fix it!

"I just hate feeling like I'm seen as less of a nurse."

Med-surg is the backbone of most inpatient nursing. A lot of people can't hack it. Many ICU people have posted about being lost when floating to med-surg and trying to juggle all the multiple issues coming their way. Who in the world would consider med-surg as inferior? And why pay them any mind??


Specializes in Emergency/Med-Tele. Has 3 years experience.

Med Surg nurses are awesome! I was hired on to a MS unit and honestly I sucked at it. I don't know how they can do the things they do with such limited resources, time and access to doctors. I've moved back in to my comfort zone of the ED, emergency just makes sense to me. Maybe it's the ADD aspect of the field but I could never get comfortable in MS even though I had great co-workers and management. You keep on being that MS nurse because you are doing an important part of patient care. 

Closed Account 12345

Has 12 years experience.

You are working in the heart of the hospital.  If I had a hospitalized family member, you can bet I'd prefer the Med Surg nurse with 10 years of experience over the miserable nurse whose heart isn't in it and who is just trying to make it to 12 mos before job hopping. 

You like your job. I'm guessing you're pretty dang competent at your job. Your spouse supports you in your job. Your job touches multiple lives every single shift.  What more could you ask for? You're living the dream!

Do YOU want the certification? Would it help you in your current role? If so, go for it. 

I've worked in multiple nursing specialties, but I've never worked Med Surg.  I wouldn't last a day!  It's a specialty of its own requiring broad knowledge and a diverse skill set.

Your job is not "less than;" it's critically important.

Blue_Moon, BSN, RN

Has 18 years experience.

We had several nurses on my last med surg floor that loved it, been there for years and never had plans to move. We had a lot of people float to our area that drowned and said they didn’t know how we did it. I loved the variety, fast pace, etc but alas I didn’t stay because I got a full time school nurse job offer and the hours were just easier with three kids. Med Surg needs experienced nurses who enjoy their job. All nursing jobs are important and you shouldn’t feel less of a nurse for liking med surg. A lot of new nurses want off med surg as fast as possible because they can’t handle the fast pace with that many patients at once. It’s not for everyone but if you’re happy there then consider yourself lucky you found a place you’re happy so easily and quickly. Heck I get asked all the time by kids or some staff even if I want to be a REAL nurse someday so see your above me. 😉 




Has 6 years experience.

If you like your job then why would you leave? 


Specializes in CMSRN. Has 9 years experience.

 Don't fix what is not broken.   Go for your CMSRN.  Expand on what you love. 

 I worked medsurg for over 10 years.  Loved it.   I left for a change of pace but miss being busy.     If I did not have family I would do travel med-surg.        

Reds5588, BSN

Specializes in Medical-Surgical. Has 5 years experience.

Thank you everyone for the good advice and words of wisdom.  You’ve confirmed my beliefs that I am where I belong.  The only reason I was contemplating even leaving because I didn’t want to be “selling myself short” or missing learning opportunities.  However, I now better understand why that line of thinking was not correct.

I'm in the float pool.  I go to all the med-surg units, acute rehab, outpatient infusion, and PCU.  I've run my own little observation unit in the ED when the hospital's census was so high there were no beds in the hospital for them.  I've gone to ICU and maternity as a helper.  Basically, I'll go anywhere.

I don't think any unit is harder or easier than another. What I've found is that every unit has its own brand of hard.  Every unit has its own brand of crazy.  Some nurses are better suited to the stresses of one type of patient, and other nurses are better suited to the stresses that go along with taking care of another kind of patient.  Different units, and even different shifts on the same unit, have different rhythms.   

Also, different med-surg units are different from each other.  Taking care of fresh hips and knees on ortho is different from taking debilitated stroke patients on neuro, and different from taking care of STEMIs on telemetry, and different from administering chemo on oncology, and different from helping people detox on general medicine floors.  A nurse who is excellent at any one of those med-surg units is an excellent nurse.  Full stop. 

One day I was chatting with a critical care nurse who had floated to med-surg. She said it was good to get out on the regular floors sometimes because it forced her to only use her eyes and ears rather than monitors to assess a patient.  The "lower" the typical acuity of the patient, the more the nurse needs to rely on him- or herself to catch emerging problems.

I'm glad you're enjoying being a med-surg nurse.  Keep working to be the best med-surg nurse you can be.  Given the stereotype that med-surg is the training place for new grads, your floor needs experienced nurses like you.  My guess is that you are an extremely valuable resource, even if there's no "official" recognition of that.

michaelb, BSN, RN

Specializes in ICU. Has 21 years experience.

love what you love! the mentallity is changing and we are the ones changing it, specialists are everywhere! 

Oh my goodness, stay where you are if you love what you are doing. I work in the schools now, but was a night float at a chronically understaffed hospital prior to that.  I could be found on med-surg, tele, ICU, or ER...plus maybe twice on the behavior floor where I went kicking and screaming.  Anyway, I have lived the shift wars and especially the floor wars.  It's sad that it happens because every aspect of nursing in so necessary.

Med-surg gave me a taste of everything, some great people to work with, excellent time management and organizational skills, a sounds knowledge of drugs, and experience in skills that I was often called upon to do on the specialty floors.  Some examples: No one on tele knew what to do with a CBI clot, the ER didn't have experience when a patient came in with a different model pleurax drain, and one ICU nurse freaked out when the unit had mostly tele holds and she had to take care of four of them instead of her usual two ICU patients....I actually got called down from the med-surg floor to handle that. 

Every floor has its great people and its whiners. Keep being a great example to newer nurses.  Yes, many of them are eager to go in other directions but if they are destined to be good nurses, they will appreciate your knowledge and passion.  As others have said, the need to knock others is a reflection on them.  

Shift wars...well that's usually an outcome of poor management and understaffing. In my cases it was those very nurses that wanted to get away from actual nursing causing the problems.  Hang in there and keep being you!

WestCoastSunRN, MSN, CNS

Specializes in CVICU, MICU, Burn ICU. Has 24 years experience.

What a refreshing post.  A nurse who likes her job!  Looks like you've found your niche - at least for now.  You are young in your career - you can always branch out and try something different later - or you can just keep being a rockstar expert in m/s nursing.  Others have said it well - m/s nurses are the backbone of acute care - hands down - and finding m/s nurses who are really good and experienced and passionate is like finding diamonds!

By all means, get certified.  I think you will have an even greater appreciation for what you do (and your knowledge) after studying for and passing the certification exam.  

Edited by WestCoastSunRN

llg, PhD, RN

Specializes in Nursing Professional Development. Has 43 years experience.

I strongly agree with the previous posters.  If you like your job -- stay there and be grateful you are able to earn a living in a job that you like!   It is a job that is needed by society and your work helps many people on a daily basis.  Be proud.

You might want to explore becoming certified as a med/surg nurse.  You also might want to become a Charge Nurse and/or Preceptor.   With you experience and maturity, being a leader on your unit might become a strong, positive influence on the culture of your new workplace.   That would be a wonderful thing.   The culture may not be perfect now, but you could help make it better in the future.  😄

OUxPhys, BSN, RN

Specializes in Cardiology. Has 4 years experience.

People say to get out of MS as fast as possible in situations where the hospital doesn't provide enough staff. If you have enough staff on your floor and you have good co--workers and good management then there is no reason to get out. I went from one heart floor to another heart floor at another hospital because the previous employer treated their employees like a number and low balled them with pay. I thought I wanted to do ICU but honestly I like working a step-down. Now if we can get our floor to turn into an actual step-down (3:1) then id probably never leave.