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Surgical RN Training and Degree Program Options

Oct 14, 2019

A surgical registered nurse (RN) is also called a medical-surgical nurse. Associate's and bachelor's degree programs in nursing prepare students to take the national, registered-nursing licensing exam. Learn about these degrees and this career.

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Essential Information

In addition to core medical science courses, nursing education teaches vital skills such as communication, critical thinking, health promotion, patient assessment and an understanding of how various services affect a patient. Nursing foundation courses also consider the community where the nurse works because the community's needs influence the patient base. This education will prepare students for general nursing positions and further specialty training and certification. Admissions requirements include a high school diploma or the equivalent.

To become a surgical nurse, specialty certification needs to be earned through a reputable professional organization. To apply for the certification, one must have an RN license and a designated level of experience.


Associate's Degree in Nursing

This two-year program prepares students for the National Council of State Boards of Nursing licensure examination for registered nurses, commonly referred to as the NCLEX-RN. Once a student has passed this exam, he or she is qualified to apply for entry-level nursing positions and register with his or her state board of nursing. Some associate's programs require students to spend the first year doing pre-nursing coursework. Basics begin with such courses as:

  • Psychology
  • Anatomy
  • Human development and growth
  • Health care professional pharmacology
  • Foundations of nursing
  • Nursing mental health

Bachelor's Degree in Nursing

This nursing program builds on the student's basic knowledge of nursing, allowing the prospective nurse to work in all areas of health-care practice from obstetrics to critical care. The 4-year program in nursing is geared towards preparing a nurse for the NCLEX-RN licensure examination. Before enrollment, many schools require health examinations and drug testing. Classes cover such topics as:

  • Pathophysiology
  • Legal and ethical nursing practice
  • Nursing and community
  • Nutrition
  • Health sciences chemistry
  • Pharmacology

Employment Outlook

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), overall registered nursing employment is predicted to rise 12% for the years 2018 through 2028. The BLS also reported the median annual salary for registered nurses was $71,730 as of May 2018.

While the outlook for new nurses is considered favorable, the new nurse with nothing more than an associate's degree is generally relegated to entry-level positions. There are many hospitals and health-care foundations however, that offer tuition reimbursement plans that enable a new nurse to pursue a bachelor's or master's degree. The majority of nurses with associate's degrees find employment in hospitals as staff workers before progressing to independent clinics or administrative positions.

Continuing Education

Once an RN has completed the first phase of training and licensure, he or she may consider additional certification as a surgical RN from the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses (AMSN) or the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). In order to qualify for the AMSN's Certified Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse (CMSRN) certification, a nurse must have an RN license, have completed two years of practice as an RN and 2,000 hours of practice within the past three years. The certification lasts for five years and must be renewed. Should an RN be certified through another agency, the ANCC has an application process and may grant reciprocity if the program adheres to their standards.

The ANCC's Medical-Surgical Nursing certification, commonly designated as the RN-BC certification, also requires two years of practice as an RN, an RN license and 2,000 hours of practice time in a three-year period. Both surgical RN designations also have continuing education requirements to maintain certification.

Training for surgical registered nurses is available at both associate's and bachelor's degree levels. Certification is also available for RNs.

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