Becoming a Surgical Nurse

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    21-Nov-2015

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Guide to Becoming a Surgical NurseA surgical nurse is the backbone of a surgical team. Surgical nurses work in a dynamic and challenging environment, taking a key role in life-saving surgical procedures and the surrounding care. Because nursing professionals at practically any level are able to take on roles as surgical nurses, their day-to-day duties vary according to their level of expertise. A licensed practical nurse (LPN) typically handles preoperative and post-operative care, including starting IVs, assisting patients with bathing and dressing, and providing bedside care during recovery. In the operating room, registered nurses (RNs) or advanced practice nurses assist the surgical team and coordinate all room activity.Surgical nurses are also responsible for educating patients on procedures prior to surgery, adjusting treatment plans, and teaching them about post-operative self-care.The opportunities for a career in surgical nursing are diverse and rewarding. Surgical nurses specialize in any or all aspects of surgery, and many work in sub-specialties such as cardiac surgery, intensive care, or pediatric surgery. Doctors rely on these dedicated professionals who touch countless lives and bring about positive improvements in the health and welfare of patients and their families.Work EnvironmentTraditionally, a surgical nurse works in a general care inpatient hospital. However, cost-efficient trends in health care and advances in surgical technology are providing more opportunities for these professionals to work in physicians' offices and ambulatory surgery centers.The majority of surgeries performed are elective, meaning they are medically necessary, but not urgent in nature. Because elective surgeries are often pre-scheduled for the daytime, surgical nurses typically work during the day and through the evening hours. Nurses employed by inpatient hospital units usually work overnight as well. Shifts run anywhere from eight to twelve hours long, and some surgical nurses are on standby and ready to work at a moment's notice.RequirementsEducationThe educational requirements for a surgical nurse vary according to the professional level that the nursing candidate seeks to obtain.Becoming a licensed practical nurse (LPN) requires completion of a twelve-month diploma or certificate program, available at some community colleges, vocational high schools, and health career academies. The LPN curriculum includes essential topics such as anatomy and physiology, as well as skills practice and training in real-world clinical settings under an instructor's supervision.Registered nurses (RNs) attend college and obtain either a two-year associate's degree or a four-year bachelor's degree in nursing. Coursework and preparation for a nursing degree includes academic prerequisites such as English or math, life sciences, and nursing-specific classes such as pharmacology, medical terminology, patient assessment, and care planning. These candidates also receive skills training in a laboratory environment and clinical practice in a range of health care settings.A graduate education is necessary to become an advanced practice nurse. These programs are structured as master's degrees or doctor of nursing practice degrees. Nursing experience and an active RN license are required for admission to most programs, and the curriculum is specifically designed for the advanced practice specialty.Visit our nursing degree guide for information about all of these degree paths, from the associate level to master's degrees.TrainingNurses with little or no experience are trained in surgery basics in an inpatient hospital surgery unit. To go into surgical critical care, the operating room, or the recovery room, background surgical experience is typically required prior to training for a period of weeks or months in the specific setting.Licensing and/or CertificationAll practicing nurses must hold a valid state license. This license is obtained after the completion of nursing education, by passing a licensing examination called the NCLEX, which is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. Detailed information about licensing requirements is available through each state's nursing board.The process of certification is optional for some surgical nurses and mandatory for others. A number of surgery specialty certifications are available for RNs, including adult cardiac surgery, plastic surgery, and intensive care. These can be obtained through professional organizations such as the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses and the American Society of Plastic Surgical Nurses.Advanced practice nurses must be certified in their area of expertise before beginning their careers.Necessary Skills and QualitiesAt all professional levels, a successful surgical nurse possesses empathy for patients, especially when it comes to pain management. Nearly all patients experience some pain or discomfort after surgery, and a nurse must monitor patients carefully to create and manage an effective pain control regimen.Skilled surgical nurses have the ability to think critically. They are alert to subtle changes in patients' behaviors or symptoms that help them detect surgical complications, such as bleeding or infection. Excellent communication skills are essential, as nurses are often the primary caregivers for surgical patients and must communicate with fellow health team members as well as the patients and their families.Opportunities for AdvancementThere is considerable room for advancement in the world of surgical nursing. LPNs with surgical roles can become RNs by advancing their educationusually through an LPN-to-RN bridge program available through community colleges and four-year universities.RNs who begin working in a general post-surgery care unit are able to move among surgical specialties in a hospital or ambulatory surgery, such as the operating room, recovery room, or intensive care unit. They may also obtain a graduate education, making them eligible to become clinical nurse specialists with a surgical focus, or nurse practitioners who assist surgeons during procedures. Becoming a certified registered nurse anesthetist is an especially popular choice for specialization among surgical nurses.

What Does a Surgical Nurse Do?Your responsibilities as a surgical nurse, also referred to as a perioperative nurse, will vary according to the role you play in the operating room. Professionals who work in this area can assume one of three main positions: scrub nurse, circulating nurse or RN first assistant. To a lesser extent, the duties of a perioperative nurse will vary within their surgical subcategory, such as cardiac surgery, dental surgery or trauma. One of the advantages of nursing is that you can choose the area that interests you the most.Scrub NurseIn this nursing role, you will prepare the operating room for the patient, setting up the tools and making sure the field is sterile. Scrub nurses assist the surgical team by donning sterile masks, gloves and gowns as well as aid the physician by passing instruments during surgery. Following the operation, the job involves clearing away the tools and preparing the patient for transport to the recovery room.Circulating NurseThe circulating nurse has a different role, as they work outside the sterile field and do not participate in the surgery. Your duties in this position are set at a broader perspective, whichi focuses on maintaining a safe and comfortable environment. These tasks include inspecting surgical equipment, verifying the patients identity and seeing that the family has signed the necessary consent forms.Other duties involve assisting the anesthesiologist with a patient and conferring with the surgeon about special concerns that could affect the patients care.RN First AssistantWith further education and training, a surgical nurse may assume the role of RN first assistant. Your duties in this job will include watching for complications and monitoring the patients vital signsblood pressure, heart rate and respiration. Should trouble arise, you will immediately alert the doctor.This position also involves performing CPR, controlling bleeding and suturing wounds in addition to applying dressings and bandages. You will also perform patient assessments prior to surgery and before discharge.Operating Room DirectorAside from the three main categories of perioperative nurse roles, you may also work as an operating room director. This job encompasses managing all the business aspects, to include budgets and staffing. Working as a director could later serve as a stepping stone to other careers, such as a clinical educator or managerial consultant.The job setting you choose could be a hospital or day surgery unit as well as a clinic or doctors office. Regardless of the setting or which role of surgical nursing you assume, you will work together with other nurses, surgeons and anesthesiologists to ensure patients receive the best possible care.Your responsibilities as a surgical nurse, also referred to as a perioperative nurse, will vary according to the role you play in the operating room. Professionals who work in this area can assume one of three main positions: scrub nurse, circulating nurse or RN first assistant. To a lesser extent, the duties of a perioperative nurse will vary within their surgical subcategory, such as cardiac surgery, dental surgery or trauma. One of the advantages of nursing is that you can choose the area that interests you the most.Scrub NurseIn this nursing role, you will prepare the operating room for the patient, setting up the tools and making sure the field is sterile. Scrub nurses assist the surgical team by donning sterile masks, gloves and gowns as well as aid the physician by passing instruments during surgery. Following the operation, the job involves clearing away the tools and preparing the patient for transport to the recovery room.Circulating NurseThe circulating nurse has a different role, as they work outside the sterile field and do not participate in the surgery. Your duties in this position are set at a broader perspective, whichi focuses on maintaining a safe and comfortable environment. These tasks include inspecting surgical equipment, verifying the patients identity and seeing that the family has signed the necessary consent forms.Other duties involve assisting the anesthesiologist with a patient and conferring with the surgeon about special concerns that could affect the patients care.RN First AssistantWith further education and training, a surgical nurse may assume the role of RN first assistant. Your duties in this job will include watching for complications and monitoring the patients vital signsblood pressure, heart rate and respiration. Should trouble arise, you will immediately alert the doctor.This position also involves performing CPR, controlling bleeding and suturing wounds in addition to applying dressings and bandages. You will also perform patient assessments prior to surgery and before discharge.Operating Room DirectorAside from the three main categories of perioperative nurse roles, you may also work as an operating room director. This job encompasses managing all the business aspects, to include budgets and staffing. Working as a director could later serve as a stepping stone to other careers, such as a clinical educator or managerial consultant.The job setting you choose could be a hospital or day surgery unit as well as a clinic or doctors office. Regardless of the setting or which role of surgical nursing you assume, you will work together with other nurses, surgeons and anesthesiologists to ensure patients receive the best possible care.TranscriptReceptionist: "This practice is offering EPS to its patients."Announcer: "Lynda Smith, for Dr Kaye, Room 22".Doctor: "Hello Lynda"Patient: "Hello".Doctor: "Come and have a seat."Doctor: "So, Lynda, I'm giving you a repeat prescription for your inhaler. You'll need to re-order the prescription in about two months to ensure you don't run out."I see you haven't got a nomination in place do want to use the electronic prescription service?"Patient: "Oh yeah I did notice the poster advertising EPS in the waiting room. Can I use this for my prescription then? How does it work?"Doctor: "Yes you can use EPS. All you do is nominate a pharmacy which is convenient for you to collect your inhaler from. You just order it a few days before, like you would now and then I authorise it and send it electronically to the pharmacy you have chosen. It can be a pharmacy close to where you live, or shop, or even where you work the choice is yours."Patient: "That's really handy! So I could choose or 'nominate' the village pharmacy on Towngate? That's just round the corner from where I work. I think I've even seen the poster up on the window but I wasn't sure what it meant.So I can just order my prescriptions as normal from you and then just nip out on my lunch hour or after work to collect my inhalers. That would be great."Doctor: "Yes, you can just ask a member of staff at the village pharmacy, they can set the nomination there. But I can do it here, there it is, village pharmacy, it says it's using EPS. Shall I add your nomination then, so you can use it?"Patient: "Yes! Definitely! That will make my life so much easier because it means that I won't have to leave work early to come here to collect my repeat prescriptions - or ask my husband to come here to collect it for me. plus I can't lose it if its electronic can I?"Doctor: "Exactly. And because village pharmacy will receive the repeat prescription electronically they will have some time to prepare the medicine before you arrive, so you shouldn't really have to wait, it should be ready when you walk in to pick it up.""And if for any reason you want to change pharmacy or you don't want to use EPS for a certain prescription, just let us know and we can change the nomination or issue you with a paper prescription."Patient: "Brilliant. Can anyone use this service? Because my Dad is on loads of repeat prescriptions he also gets colostomy bags too. He is getting on a bit and he has to get the bus to the surgery each timethis would save him a trip!"Doctor: "Yes, it'd be great for your Dad as long as he is using the same pharmacy, and he can nominate his dispensing appliance contractor for his appliances too. Most patients can use the service; best thing for him to do is talk to his GP or pharmacist about it.""Right that's done I've sent your prescription and it should be ready for you in an hour or two."Patient: "Great, thanks a lot. Bye."

TranscriptPatient: ""Hi I'm here to collect my repeat prescription, it's Lynda Smith." Assistant: "OK I'll just see if it's ready for you. Can you just confirm your address for me please?" Patient: "54 Sunny Drive"Assistant: "Lovely ok thank you. Would you normally pay for your medication? Patient: "No"Assistant: "OK...