What is a Surgical Nurse?

Surgical NurseA surgical nurse is a health care professional who specializes in proving before, during and after surgical care to patients. However, most people aren’t aware that there are many types of surgical nurses.

Surgical Nurse Categories

Most people are familiar with general surgical nurses, who assist during standard operations, such as gallbladder removals. However, there are vascular surgical nurses, who participate in vein repairs, and colo-rectal surgical nurses, who may assist during colon surgery. Orthopaedic surgical nurses tend to work with older patients who need hip or knee replacement surgery. There are also surgical oncology nurses, who help reduce or remove tumors, and urological surgical nurses who assist with prostate surgeries. Finally, there are ambulatory surgical nurses who work in emergency departments. However, all surgical nurses work in similar environments, such as surgical wards, intensive care units and emergency care centers.

What Does a Surgical Nurse Do?

Surgical nurses help surgical technicians prepare and organize the operation room. They will provide pre-procedure instructions to the patient, administer any medications and assist other health care professionals with things like sterilization and starting IV lines. Once the procedure begins, they must monitor the patients’ vital signs, pass instruments to the surgeons and operate surgical equipment. If there are any issues, such as erratic vital signs, they must communicate this with the team. They must be also prepared to perform lifesaving procedures if necessary. They are also responsible for post-surgical care, such as transporting the patient to their room, monitoring their status and providing care. Post-surgical care also involves administering medications, taking vitals and educating the patient about post-operative care.

What Education is Required?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, all surgical nurses first start out at Registered Nurses (RNs). A nursing program for RNs will include all the necessary coursework in anatomy, biology, chemistry, physiology and nutrition. They also study psychology, communication and leadership classes. RNs obtain their RN license through passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). It is highly recommended that students gain experience working as an RN and with recovery or intensive care units. The ANCC Medical-Surgical Nursing board provides the industry standard competency based exam for RN’s working in medical-surgery departments. The highly sought after Registered Nurse-Board Certified (RN-BC) accreditation proves that the surgical nurse is knowledgeable and capable of independently working in operating rooms. Exam eligibility is as follows: hold an active RN license, have two years of RN experience, have 2,000 hours of clinical surgery experience and 30 hours of medical-surgical nursing continuing education credits.

The Registered Nurse-Board Certified (RN-BC) Exam

According to the American Nurses Credentialing Center, the RN-BC exam is comprised of four areas: Assessment and Diagnosis, Professional Role, Health Teaching and Promotion, Planning, Implementation and Outcomes Evaluation. First, the Assessment and Diagnosis part makes up approximately 15 percent of the exam and includes skills and knowledge related to gathering and analyzing patient data. The Professional Role makes up 30 percent of the exam and covers therapeutic relationships and communication. Health Teaching and Promotion makes up 22 percent and covers core concepts and skills. Finally, Planning, Implementation and Outcomes covers approximately 33 percent of the exam and covers knowledge of evidence-based guidelines and Nursing Outcomes Classification (NOC).

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Surgical nurses are RNs who have obtained RN-BC accreditation and specialized training. Surgical nurses are key members of critical care health care teams who perform life-saving procedures for patients.