A surgical nurse is a nurse who specializes in perioperative care, meaning care provided to surgical patients before, during, and after surgery. There are a number of different kinds of surgical nurse, and surgical nursing as a career can be very demanding. Compensation in this field varies, depending on where a nurse works. Some surgical nurses make salaries which are comparable to those of doctors, while others struggle to get by on much less.
Surgery is never routine, no matter what surgeons might claim. Every surgical procedure requires a great deal of preparation and work to go smoothly, whether it is a procedure which is performed on a regular basis or not. This work is accomplished by a surgical team which includes the surgeon, the anesthesiologist, and surgical nurses, along with an assortment of technicians.
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In pre-operative care, a surgical nurse helps to prepare a patient for surgery, both physically and emotionally. Surgical nurses may explain the procedure to the patient, and ease fears about the upcoming surgery and recovery. They also check the patient's vitals, administer medications, and help to sterilize and mark the surgical site.
During surgery, a surgical nurse assists the surgeon, passing instruments, keeping an eye on the patient's vital signs, and performing other tasks associated with the surgery, such as providing suction at the surgical site to remove blood and fluids. Some surgical nurses work as circulating nurses, patrolling the operating room to make sure that everyone stays sterile, and counting instruments, drapes, and other equipment to ensure that everything is where it is supposed to be. Nurses who are skilled at operating room work tend to receive excellent compensation, especially if particular surgeons become attached to them.
Post-operative care is also a critical part of the work of a surgical nurse. Nurses can work in acute recovery, keeping an eye on patients who are at serious risk of complications, and on more standard recovery floors in the hospital. They are usually responsible for changing dressings, monitoring vital signs, looking for signs of complications, and administering medications. The care of an attentive surgical nurse ensures that a patient's recovery goes as smoothly as possible.
People who want to become surgical nurses attend nursing school and specialize in surgical nursing. They are often required to pass examinations administered by the government or by nursing certification boards before being allowed to work as nurses, and they may also be expected to attend periodic continuing education classes so that they keep up with developments in the nursing field.