nurse in surgery room

Surgical Nursing

Learn More about Surgical Nursing

A surgical nurse (also called a medical-surgical nurse) is a nurse who specializes in perioperative care, meaning care provided to surgical patients before, during, and after surgery. In pre-operative care, a surgical nurse helps to prepare a patient for surgery, both physically and emotionally. 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.

Post-operative care is also a critical part of a surgical nurse’s work. 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.

Preparation Path

Earn your BSN

Pass the NCLEX and become an RN

Get your CMSRN or RN-BC certification

Typical Tasks

  • Preparing patients for surgery
  • Passing instruments during surgery
  • Monitoring patients’ vital signs during surgery
  • Changing patients’ dressings
  • Administering medications

Employment Settings

  • Inpatient care units
  • Clinics
  • HMOs
  • Ambulatory care units
  • Skilled nursing homes
  • Urgent care centers
  • Surgical centers

Annual Salary Range

$40,500 – $106,500


RN, Certified Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse, or Registered Nurse-Board Certified (RN-BC)

Education Requirements


Interested in taking the first step toward a career in surgical nursing?