Med - Surg Nurse
Career Resources

What is Medical Surgical ‘Med-Surg’ Nursing?

Scope of practice:

  • Assess patients’ conditions; record medical history and symptoms
  • Administer patients’ medicines and treatments
  • Operate and monitor medical equipment
  • Teach patients and their families how to manage illnesses or injuries
  • Ability to be adaptable, working across multiple hospital floors and clinical settings

Where they work:

Med-surg nurses can be found in many different settings within hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities. One of the most common areas of care is in hospitals on units providing care for adult patients whom are acutely ill or recovering from surgery.


The most recently reported median annual wage for a med-surg RN is $73,300 (BLS). According to Vivian data, the average gross weekly salary for a Med Surg Travel Nurse is $1,543. See our med surg salary guide.

How to become a Med-Surg specialist:

Medical-surgical nursing requires an Associates Degree in Nursing from an accredited nursing school with subsequent passing of the NCLEX or equivalent. Basic Life Support (BLS) certification is also required, and nurses are advised to get their Certified Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse (CMSRN). Some hospitals may require a Bachelor’s in Nursing for employment. 

Explore med-surg jobs with Vivian or sign up and let the offers come to you.


Medical-surgical, also known as ‘med-surg’, is a nursing specialty that makes up the foundation of nursing. In fact, many sub-specialties of nursing require that you have prior med-surg experience. Med-surg nurses are responsible for taking care of patients with acute medical issues, as well as those requiring surgical intervention, however, the med-surg umbrella term can often apply to any nurse not working in a specific specialty.

According to BLS data, the median annual wage for a med-surg RN was $73,300. Employment is expected to grow by 12 percent through 2028, which is exponentially faster than the average rate of growth for all other occupations (five percent). Demand is expected to increase due to an aging population, and greater need for nursing staff in care centers like hospitals, chemotherapy clinics, rehabilitation facilities, and in peri-op arenas.

Med-surg is the top recruited specialty on Vivian

What does a medical surgical nurse do?

Med-surg nurses monitor their patients for acute changes in physical condition, vitals signs, or lab values. These nurses prioritize patient safety, educate patients and families, mobilize patients, and monitor and administer a patient’s medication regimen. Med-surg nurses also need to know how to delegate tasks to ancillary staff, as well as chart accurate and complete documentation for their patients.

According to the Academy of Medical Surgical Nursing, med-surg nurses ‘provide care 24/7 and have more facetime with patients than any other professional in the hospital.’ It is also one of the most common travel nursing specialties. If you’re new to travel nursing, read more about the benefits in our guide.

Where do med-surg nurses work?

Med-surg RNs can be found in acute and sub-acute settings such as hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities. As a med-surg travel nurse, you are expected to work in a variety of settings with similar acuity levels. Med-surg nurses can work on general hospital floors like neuro, trauma, general surgery, oncology, cardiac, and many other areas of care. These nurses are working in a specialty, but are considered med-surg unless there is special monitoring or technology that requires additional training or certification.

States like Washington, Pennsylvania, New York, and California are currently hiring the most travel med-surg RN’s. Not sure where to look for jobs? Start with our location explorer where you can search by state, region, cost of living, and even “weather” or “night life”.

Medical surgical nurse salary

The average median annual wage for a med-surg RN was $73,300 in 2019 (BLS). According to Vivian data on thousands of travel nursing jobs for the same period, travel nurses with a medical surgical specialty earned an average gross salary of $1,543/week. This includes non-taxable compensation like stipends for housing, meals, and incidentals, which averaged $1,162/week. 

In terms of weekly pay, the medical-surgical specialty ranked 72 out of 82 nursing specialties based on Vivian salary data for the past year. Last year, states like Rhode Island, District of Columbia, California, and New Jersey had the highest average salaries for travel med surg jobs. You can explore salary trends for the current month in our med surg salary guide.

How to become a Medical Surgical Travel Nurse

To become a med-surg travel nurse, you need at least 1.5 to 2 years of experience in the setting you wish to work. You must have at least an Associates Degree in Nursing, and have graduated from an accredited nursing school with subsequent passing of the NCLEX or equivalent (if you were trained abroad, requirements vary by state). Med-surg nurses are required to have their Basic Life Support (BLS) certification. Nurses are advised to get their Certified Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse (CMSRN) before traveling, but it is not always a requirement.

Med-surg travel nurses are expected to have a wide knowledge base and be able to practice in almost any type of med-surg setting. In a hospital setting, travel nurses are frequently floated between all of the med-surg units within the hospital or healthcare system. Med-surg travel nurses need to be flexible and adaptable in their practice.

Looking for med-surg travel nursing jobs?

Explore jobs and compare agencies with Vivian or create a profile and let the offers come to you.

[su_button url=”” target=”blank” size=”8″ center=”yes”]Get matched with a job you love[/su_button]


Rachel Norton BSN, RN

I have been a critical care nurse since 2007. I grew up in the northeast but enjoy every corner of the country. My passions are people and travel. Travel nursing allows me to meet amazing people and satisfy my wanderlust. I love inspiring other nurses to travel and expand their practice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Most Popular on Community Hub