nurse station
HealthAugust 28, 2014

A look at med-surg nursing and its specialty organization

An overview of the duties of medical-surgical nurses and the specialty organization that represents them.

Medical-surgical, or med-surg, nurses provide direct care to patients in hospitals, surgical centers, skilled nursing facilities and other healthcare settings. The types of patients they may care for covers a vast range, especially in smaller hospitals without specialized units.

This variety can be a challenge but also a draw for nurses in the specialty, who enjoy the day-to-day—not to mention room-to-room—diversity within their patient population.

Responsibilities of a med-surg nurse

Med-surg nurses typically manage between 5 and 7 patients at a time. For each, they act as a liaison between the patient and other healthcare providers, in addition to a number of important responsibilities:

  • admission and discharge duties
  • medication administration
  • pain control
  • basic bedside care
  • ambulation
  • wound care
  • patient education
  • documentation

For many patients, med-surg nurses are the “face” of a hospital stay. Along the same lines, med-surg nursing is the face of the nursing profession for many people. In fact, med-surg nurses make up the largest group of nurses in the profession. One in six nurses is a med-surg nurse.

The origins of the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses

The Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses represents more than 10,000 med-surg nurse members. The professional organization got its start in 1990 when the American Nurses Association authorized its Council of Medical-Surgical to conduct a survey to gauge interest in a specialty organization for med-surg nurses.

The response was positive, with more than three-quarters of respondents indicating interest in joining such a body. They got what they wanted, and the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses was born.

The group had three main objectives at the start:

  • To improve the image of med-surg nursing
  • To develop standards for med-surg nursing practice
  • To create a core curriculum for the essence of med-surg nursing practice.

Over the years, those objectives were tested, updated and refined—and continue to be so, according to the organization. Today, the guiding mission of the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses is to promote excellence in med-surg nursing.

Demands for CMSRN certification

The group held its first convention in Chicago in 1992. A decade later, a taskforce was established to investigate member requests for another option for med-surg nursing certification. The independent Medical-Surgical Nursing Certification Board was formed a year later, when some 225 candidates earned the certified medical-surgical registered nurse (CMSRN) credential.

The credential proved to be a highly sought one. By the end of 2006, some 5,366 med-surg nurses held the CMSRN designation.

Happily ever after

The Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses continues to be the sole specialty organization for med-surg nurses, a group it considers “the backbone of every adult-care clinical agency.”

“In summary,” the Academy explains on its website, “this organization was formed to reach the ‘hidden and silent’ heroes of tertiary care facilities.”

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