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What is a Surgical Nurse?

Surgical Nurses may practice in different types of surgery:

  • General Surgery (e.g. appendectomy, gallbladder removal)

  • Vascular Surgery (e.g. varicose vein surgery, aortic aneurysm repair)

  • Colorectal surgery (e.g. stoma formation)

  • Surgical Oncology (e.g. breast surgery, tumor resections)

  • Orthopedic surgery (e.g. knee or hip replacements, fracture repair)

  • Urological surgery (e.g. prostate surgery)

  • Day surgery (or ambulatory surgery, where a patient is discharged within 24 hours)

Surgical nurses are responsible for several patients, depending on the nature of the surgical ward. Intensive Care and High-Dependency units usually have one to two nurses per patient.

The Duties of a Surgical Nurse

Pre-Operatively:

Preparation of patients for their procedure involves ensuring pre-medication is administered, the patient/guardian has given written consent, the required blood-tests have been done, identification labels and identification bracelets are correct, all allergies have been recorded in the patient's notes and that the patient has been fasted appropriately.

Post-Operatively:

Post-operatively the patient must be closely observed for signs of shock, arrest. The surgical nurse also ensures the wound created by the surgery is intact, and must be knowledgeable in wound care and the care of surgical drains. Surgical Nurses are responsible for the management of pain and post-operative nausea and vomiting, which are common post-operative side effects. The surgical nurse is also responsible for the discharge of the patient and giving the patient information on support systems and measures necessary to their recovery.

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Educational and Licensure Requirements

Bachelor of Science in Nursing

To obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), a four-year degree  prepares nurses for graduate-level education. For the first two years in a BSN program, students usually obtain general education requirements and spend the remaining time in nursing courses. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees have many courses which stretches out the degree-acquiring process to over 4 years. Advocates for the ADN and diploma programs state that such programs have a on the job training approach to educating students, while the BSN is an academic degree that emphasizes research and nursing theory. However the BSN graduate has both more classroom and clinical hours of study in nursing than the ADN graduate. The BSN graduate is professionally degreed; and as such is called a professional nurse. However, some states require a specific amount of clinical experience that is the same for both BSN and ADN students. Nursing schools may or may not be accredited by either the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

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