What does a medical-surgical registered nurse do?

Would you make a good medical-surgical registered nurse? Take our career test and find your match with over 800 careers.

Take the free career test Learn more about the career test

What is a Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse?

A medical-surgical registered nurse (MSRN) specializes in providing care to adult patients with a wide range of medical and surgical conditions. These nurses typically work in hospital settings and are responsible for managing patients with acute or chronic illnesses, such as pneumonia, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. They may also care for patients who have undergone surgery, such as joint replacements, appendectomies, or gallbladder removals. Medical-surgical nurses are highly skilled in monitoring and managing patients' conditions, administering medications and treatments, and providing emotional support to patients and their families.

In addition to providing direct patient care, medical-surgical nurses also collaborate with other healthcare professionals, such as physicians, physical therapists, and social workers, to ensure that patients receive comprehensive care. They may also serve as advocates for their patients, helping them navigate the healthcare system and access the resources they need to manage their conditions.

What does a Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse do?

A medical-surgical registered nurse smiling with a patient in a hospital bed.

Medical-surgical nursing requires a high level of critical thinking, clinical judgment, and technical skills, as well as strong communication and interpersonal skills to work effectively with patients, families, and colleagues.

Duties and Responsibilities
Medical-surgical registered nurses have a range of duties and responsibilities, which include:

  • Assessing Patients: MSRNs use a variety of techniques to assess patients, such as taking vital signs (e.g., blood pressure, temperature, pulse, and respiratory rate), conducting physical exams, and reviewing medical histories. They also evaluate patients' pain levels, mental status, and overall health condition.
  • Administering Medications: MSRNs administer medications, such as antibiotics, pain relievers, and anti-inflammatory drugs, as ordered by physicians or other healthcare professionals. They are responsible for checking medication dosages, ensuring that medications are administered on time, and monitoring patients for adverse reactions.
  • Coordinating Care: MSRNs work collaboratively with other healthcare professionals to provide coordinated care to patients. They communicate with physicians, pharmacists, physical therapists, and other members of the healthcare team to ensure that patients receive the best possible care.
  • Educating Patients: MSRNs educate patients and their families on various health conditions, including how to manage symptoms, take medications, and prevent complications. They also provide information on healthy lifestyle choices, such as diet and exercise.
  • Monitoring Patients: MSRNs continuously monitor patients for changes in their condition, such as changes in vital signs or the development of new symptoms. They also assess patients' response to treatments and medications, and report any changes to physicians or other healthcare professionals.
  • Managing Patient Care: MSRNs develop and implement care plans for patients, including interventions and treatment strategies. They also coordinate the scheduling of diagnostic tests and procedures, and ensure that patients receive appropriate follow-up care.
  • Providing Emotional Support: MSRNs provide emotional support to patients and their families, helping them to cope with the stress and anxiety that can come with illness or injury. They offer counseling and guidance, and provide referrals to other resources as needed.
  • Performing Procedures: MSRNs perform a range of procedures, such as inserting IV lines, catheters, and feeding tubes, as well as providing wound care and administering medications.
  • Documenting Patient Information: MSRNs maintain detailed records of patient care, including medical histories, treatments, and progress notes. They ensure that all documentation is accurate and up-to-date, and that patient privacy is protected.
  • Ensuring Patient Safety: MSRNs are responsible for ensuring patient safety by adhering to safety protocols, monitoring equipment, and preventing infections. They also educate patients and their families on how to prevent accidents and injuries, such as falls or medication errors.

Types of Medical-Surgical Registered Nurses
There are several types of medical-surgical registered nurses (MSRNs), each with its own area of focus and specialized skills. Here are some examples:

  • Staff Nurse: This is the most common type of MSRN, who works in hospitals and other healthcare facilities, providing direct patient care. They are responsible for assessing patients, administering medications, and coordinating treatments with other healthcare professionals.
  • Charge Nurse: Charge nurses are responsible for overseeing the nursing staff on a particular unit or shift. They ensure that patient care is coordinated and delivered effectively, and that staff members are following safety protocols and procedures.
  • Travel Nurse: Travel nurses work on a temporary basis, typically for a few weeks or months, in healthcare facilities across the country. They may work in hospitals, clinics, or other healthcare settings, providing short-term coverage and support to staff members.
  • Operating Room Nurse: Operating room (OR) nurses specialize in providing care to patients who are undergoing surgical procedures. They assist surgeons during procedures, prepare patients for surgery, and monitor patients' vital signs and anesthesia during procedures.
  • Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) Nurse: PACU nurses provide care to patients who are recovering from anesthesia following surgery. They monitor patients' vital signs, assess pain levels, and administer medications as needed.
  • Oncology Nurse: Oncology nurses specialize in providing care to patients who are receiving cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy. They monitor patients for side effects and complications, and provide emotional support to patients and their families.
  • Rehabilitation Nurse: Rehabilitation nurses work with patients who have suffered injuries or illnesses that require rehabilitation. They assist with physical therapy and other treatments, and help patients to regain their strength and independence.

Medical-Surgical registered nurses have distinct personalities. Think you might match up? Take the free career test to find out if medical-surgical registered nurse is one of your top career matches. Take the free test now Learn more about the career test

What is the workplace of a Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse like?

Medical-surgical registered nurses work in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities, such as rehabilitation centers. The workplace environment of a med-surg nurse can be fast-paced and demanding, but also highly rewarding.

The work environment can be stressful, as medical-surgical registered nurses must manage a high volume of patients with diverse medical conditions. The environment can also be physically demanding, as they are required to move and lift patients, as well as stand for long periods of time. Med-surg nurses must also be highly organized, as they are responsible for managing multiple patients at once and coordinating with other medical professionals.

However, med-surg nurses also have the opportunity to work in a highly collaborative environment with other healthcare professionals. They work closely with physicians, respiratory therapists, physical therapists, and other members of the healthcare team to provide comprehensive care to their patients. This collaboration can lead to a strong sense of teamwork and shared responsibility, which can be highly rewarding for med-surg nurses.

Med-surg nurses are responsible for a wide range of patient care tasks, including monitoring vital signs, administering medication, managing wound care, and providing patient education. They are also responsible for documenting patient care accurately and communicating with physicians and other healthcare professionals regarding patient progress and treatment plans.

Despite the challenges, working as a med-surg nurse can be highly rewarding. Med-surg nurses have the opportunity to work with a diverse patient population and make a significant impact on the lives of their patients. They also have the opportunity to work in a dynamic and constantly evolving field, which can provide a sense of professional growth and development.

Frequently Asked Questions



Continue reading

Medical-Surgical Registered Nurses are also known as:
MSRN Medical-Surgical Nurse Med-Surg Nurse Med-Surg RN