How to Become a Surgical Nurse

To become a surgical nurse, you must first become a registered nurse by earning a degree from a state-approved school of nursing and passing a licensing exam. You can become a registered nurse by earning a four-year bachelor’s of science degree, or a two-year associate’s degree from a community college, although requirements will vary from state to state. Additionally, to become more competitive, you can then obtain a voluntary certification in surgical nursing, which requires some working experience and passing an exam given by the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses. A master’s degree with a specialization in surgical nursing is also an option to advance your career as you become more experienced.

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Surgical Nurse Job Description and Duties

Surgical nurses provide care to patients before, during, and after surgery. This is called “perioperative” care. As a surgical nurse, you would prepare a patient for surgery, both physically and emotionally. This can include taking vitals, giving medication, and also explaining the procedure to the patient and helping them feel comfortable with it. During surgery, these nurses continue to check vitals and condition of the patient, and they assist the surgeons, giving them instruments they need and aiding with certain procedures. They’re often responsible for ensuring that the operating rooms are ready, sterile, and equipped with the necessary tools and medical equipment. Post-surgery care is equally important, as they again monitor vitals, give medications, perhaps change dressings, and keep an eye out overall for any complications in recovery.

Salary and Job Outlook

According to, the median surgical nurse salary as of February, 2009 is $72,783. This will of course vary based on region, hospital, and experience. Registered nurses are the largest group of healthcare workers in the healthcare industry, and about 56% of nurses work in hospital settings, such as the operating room. Healthcare is a fast-growing industry due to the growing aging population, and the impending shortages in healthcare workers means that there will be no shortage of stable, secure jobs for qualified nurses. Nursing in general is projected to see roughly 587,000 job openings before 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. This is the largest projected rate of growth of any other occupation. According to the Bureau of labor and Statistics, hospital nursing jobs are not growing quite as fast as other nursing positions, yet there are still large numbers of openings there due to higher turnover. Hospitals are increasingly offering more perks and flexible work schedules to attract and retain qualified nurses.

Career advancement in surgical nursing is very attainable. Many surgical nurses choose to continue with there education to become practitioners, educators and managers. Others have chosen to specialize in a surgical field such as plastic surgery nursing. Plastic surgery nursing is an area of nursing where a nurse with prior surgical work experience can earn more money while working in a plastic surgeons office assisting with cosmetic procedures or in private surgery centers where pay can be much higher than other surgical nursing positions.

Below you will find a number of schools that offer accredited nursing programs for those that already have already have a nursing diploma or an associate’s degree in nursing. Getting your BSN or MSN in addition to becoming certified as a surgical nurse can potentially make you more competitive than other candidates applying for surgical nursing positions. Explore the programs below or if you are new to the field of nursing and don’t currently have an RN license, you may want to browse nursing programs by state. Here you will find all levels of nursing programs ranging form nursing assistant certificate programs to nursing to post-master’s nursing certificates.

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