How to Become A Surgical Nurse

A Surgical nurse is a trained specialist who provides medical care to patients before and after surgery. These nurses are vital to a facility’s surgical team as they assist surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other professionals during the medical procedure. Their detailed tasks may include the following:


  • Educating patients about the procedure, informing them of the risks and answering any questions they may have before the surgery;
  • Collecting medical histories and clearing patients for surgery;
  • During the surgery, sterilizing surgical areas and passing instruments to the doctor;
  • Monitoring vital signs of the patients and performing various tasks during the surgery; and
  • Administering patient’s post-operative care before surgery, including pain relief and positioning, and checking for any signs of complications.

Surgical nurses may work in various types of surgeries such as general, colorectal, vascular, orthopedic and urological surgery, and surgical oncology.

How to become a Surgical Nurse

Since surgical nursing involves working in a dynamic and challenging medical environment, specialized training is required in order to become a surgical nurse.

There are different professional levels in nursing such as licensed practical Nursing (LPN), registered nursing (RN), and advanced practice nursing. Hence the educational, training and licensure requirements for surgical nurses may vary depending on the professional level that they wish to pursue.

Educational Requirements

LPN: In order to become an LPN, usually a twelve month diploma or certificate program is required.  This can be obtained at any vocational high school, community college, or health career academy. The curriculum covers essential topics such as anatomy, physiology, as well as skills practice and training in clinical settings.

RN: In order to become an RN, nurses are usually required to attend college and obtain a two year associate’s degree or a four year bachelor’s degree in nursing. Coursework prerequisites may include life sciences, English or Math, and nursing-specific courses such as pharmacology, patient assessment, and care planning. Students also receive skills training in laboratory and clinical practice in a variety of health settings.

Advanced practice nurse: In order to become an advanced practice nurse, a graduate degree is mandatory. Master or Doctor of nursing practice degrees may be required. Nursing experience and a valid RN license are needed to get admission to most programs. The curriculum is designed to focus on advanced practice specialty.


Those with little or no prior experience are given practical exposure to surgery basics in an inpatient hospital surgery unit. For practicing in surgical critical care, prior surgical experience is usually required before specialized training in specific setting is provided.


License to practice nursing is obtained by passing a licensing exam called the NCLEX, administered by National Council of State Boards of Nursing. Additional information about licensing requirements of individual states can be obtained from each state’s nursing board.

In addition to that, certification may be required for surgical RNs, including adult cardiac surgery, and plastic surgery. Advanced practice nurses are required to be certified in their area of specialty.

Career Outlook

The median annual salary of registered nurses was $65,470 in May 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics (BLS). Experienced nurses with specialty in a particular area have a bright career outlook. The employment of registered nurses is expected to grow by 26 percent from 2010 to 2020, faster than the average for all occupations, according to the BLS.


Ask an Expert

Q:Can you briefly explain to me what is Medical Surgical Nursing?

A:Medical Surgical Nursing is a specialty area that deals with the treatment of adult patients. Nurses trained in this field are responsible for providing primary and advanced clinical services to adult patients before and after surgeries. One must have the right sill, certification, and credentials to become a medical surgical nurse.

Q:How to become a surgical nurse?

A:To become a surgical nurse, you must first complete a bachelor in nursing degree. It is important to have an undergraduate qualification in nursing to qualify for any specialty field. The next step is to enroll in a certification program and acquire the minimum training hours needed to become a surgical nurse. These requirements will depend upon which state you live in.

Q:Is it possible to pursue a medical surgical nursing certification program online?

A:Yes, you can pursue a medical surgical nursing certification program online. A number of online nursing schools are offering this program. Students can study online with the help of online lectures, video lectures, multimedia slideshows, and classroom conferencing. Online learning has proved to cost effective and flexible as compared to campus based degrees.

Q:Can you tell me how to be a surgical nurse easily?

A:There is no easy way or a short cut to becoming a surgical nurse. You will be required to follow the designated path and acquire the education necessary for this field. You must first enroll in a nursing program and develop the skills needed for a nursing care. You can then take the nursing licensing examination in your state. For more detail, take a look at our page.

Q:Can you tell me a little about surgical nurse training?

A:Nurses who wish to pursue a career as a surgical nurse must acquire basic surgery training in inpatient surgery units of hospitals. Practical experience is required to work in any kind of surgical unit or operating room. Apart from this, individuals can also seek certifications from professional organizations such as the American Society of Plastic Surgical Nurses or the Academy of Medical Surgical Nurses.

Q:What are the benefits of opting for online surgical nurse education?

A:If you opt for an online program in surgical nursing, you can experience a number of benefits. You can study from your home and create your own work schedule. On the other hand, you can cut down on extra costs related to travelling and text books. Online programs are covered with the help of online lectures, videos, presentations, and classroom conferencing.

Q:Can you tell me briefly what a surgical nurse practitioner does?

A:A surgical nurse practitioner is responsible for assessing patients prior to surgery, monitoring patients during surgery, assisting surgeons, educating patients about surgeries, and maintaining sterile conditions. These nurses can be found working operating theaters, inpatient units, and critical care units. Take a look at our page for more information about surgical nurses.

Q:What is the exact surgical nurse salary? Can you also tell me about RNs?

A:According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses made a median annual income of $65,470 in 2012. Surgical nurses are trained to assist patients before, during, and after surgeries. These nurses perform a range of duties such as prepping patients for surgery and assisting surgeons. Take a look at our page for more information about surgical nurses.

Q:Can you please help me select the best surgical nurse schools?

A:There are many nursing schools that offer degree programs in a variety of nursing specialties such as surgical nursing. The admission requirements and program offerings may vary from state to state. However, before enrollment, make sure you check the following: accreditation of the program, course structure, recognition and ranking, faculty, and costs.

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