Surgical versus Medical Acute departments?

Nurses General Nursing


When I did my clinical rotations, I was on a medical-surgical and oncology floor. The job I'm applying to has openings in Medical Acute and Surgical Acute. What is the major difference in these units? (Besides the obvious that one has surgical patients and the other doesn't)

RNperdiem, RN

4,592 Posts

Medical patients tend to be older and have a lot of chronic problems that need managing. Diabetes, dementia, COPD were common.

There were a lot of meds to give, most of which were patients daily meds outside the hospital.

Having good CNA's is crucial on a medical floor. Often my patients needed feeding, turning every 2 hours, frequent skin care for incontinence and assistance to the bathroom. I had to rely heavily on my CNAs.

Surgical patients are a more varied group, and patient turnover from new admits and discharging patients tends to be more frequent.

Surgical patients require more assessments of vital signs, pain control(big issue), careful monitoring of intakes and outputs, and wound care.

There is a lot of overlap between the two also.


140 Posts

Specializes in Paediatric Cardic critical care.

I found that some medical was frustrating as some of the patients needed surgery but for one reason or another (usually age) were not fit for surgery.

For your longer term surgical patients you'll have the same with 2hourly rolls, pressure area care etc.

On the whole as RNperdiem mentioned, much the same but surgical probably faster pace.

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