How to Become a Medical Surgical Nurse: Salary, Job Duties

Nurse examines x-rayA medical surgical nurse, sometimes known as a med-surg nurse, takes care of patients in hospital medical or surgical departments. Once seen as an entry level nursing position, medical surgical nursing is now a unique and comprehensive specialty.


Table of Contents
How to Become a Medical Surgical Nurse
Education Requirements
Medical Surgical Nurse Job Description
Sample Job Description
Medical Surgical Nursing on YouTube
Personality Traits
Career Options
National Salary Snapshot
Medical Surgical Nurse Certification
Cost of Certification
Career Path
Professional Organizations
Related Careers

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide salary and job outlook information specific to medical surgical nurses but the website does offer an overview of registered nurses.

Nurse Salary and Employment Data

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Level of Education Required Associate degree or Bachelor Degree in Nursing
Board Examinations needed NCLEX-RN, RN-BC
Average Salary $66,220
# of Jobs (2012) 2,712,000
Job Outlook (2012 to 2022) 19% growth

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

How to become a medical surgical nurse

To become a medical surgical nurse, the individual:

  • Must have an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and have passed the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN)
  • May pursue additional education in medical and surgical nursing topics
  • May pursue voluntary certification to become a Certified Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse (CMSRN®)

Education requirements

To become a medical surgical nurse, the candidate must obtain an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN), Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) then pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). Medical surgical nurses may take advanced coursework and pursue certification that demonstrates advanced knowledge in medical and surgical nursing.

Wilkes RN to MS


Job description

Medical surgical nurses respond to the wide variety of medical and surgical problems patients may experience while admitted to a medical or surgical facility. During the course of one shift, a medical surgical nurse takes care of many patients.

The duties of the medical surgical nurse depend largely on the institution and department within that institution. Nurses working on medical or surgical floors start intravenous (IV) fluids, dispense medications, coordinate medical records, chart patient progress and help patients with eating, walking and hygiene. These healthcare professionals measure and record vital signs, change dressings, help with physical therapy and other treatments and communicate with family members. Medical surgical nurses collaborate with other members of the healthcare team, such as doctors and laboratory technicians.

Sample Job Description

Sample job descriptions and qualifications are sourced from various job board websites, like these:,

  • Responsible for providing medical or surgical nursing care to patients in a hospital or outpatient surgical clinic
  • Administer medications prescribed by physicians
  • Perform certain medical procedures as directed by a physician
  • Provide care to patients before and after surgery
  • Oversee and guide employees that are under his/her supervision


  • Must hold a current RN license and current BCLS Certification
  • Must possess the knowledge and skills necessary to provide medical, preoperative and postoperative care to patients

Medical surgical nursing on YouTube

Personality traits:

  • Compassionate
  • Detail-oriented
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Strong technical skills
  • Patience
  • Physical stamina
  • Communication skills

Medical surgical nurses report to nursing supervisors in hospitals and physicians in outpatient clinics.

Career options

Typical workplaces for this career:

  • Hospitals
  • Outpatient surgical clinics
  • HMOs
  • Ambulatory care units
  • Urgent care centers
  • Home health care
  • Long-term care
  • Skilled nursing homes
  • Universities

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects jobs for registered nurses to rise 19 percent from 2012 to 2022. In 2012, a registered nurse earned a median wage of $65,470 annually.

National Salary Snapshot

Indeed lists the average salary of medical/surgical nurses as $63,000, while SimplyHired posts the typical yearly earnings as $50,000 for this position.

Certification information

A registered nurse may pursue certification as a Certified Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse (CMSRN®) to demonstrate advanced knowledge in this field. Certification is by exam. Candidates must hold a current and unrestricted license as a registered nurse and have practiced for at least two years in a medical or surgical setting. Candidates must also have accrued a minimum of 2,000 hours of practice within the past three years in a medical or surgical setting, including clinical, management or education settings.

Certification is valid for five years.

Cost of certification

Credential: CMSRN® from the Medical-Surgical Nursing Board


Fees for Non-Members:

Initial Exam: $375

Recertification: $275.00


Fees for Members:

Initial Exam: $225

Recertification: $175.00 AMSN member or $160.00 AMSN member whose membership fee is paid by a facility participating in AMSN’s Hospital Group Membership Program.

Typical career path

The typical career path for a medical/surgical nurse is to:

  • Earn a nursing diploma (RN), Associate of Science in Nursing (ANS), or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), taking courses focusing in medical/surgical nursing
  • Pass NCLEX-RN national licensure
  • Work at least 2 years as an RN or gain 2,000 hours in 3 years of practice as an RN in a medical/surgical setting
  • Earn CMSRN® through the Medical-Surgical Nursing Board

Professional organizations

Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses:

Relevant publications

MEDSURG Nursing Journal

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