Roles & responsibilities of staff nurse medical surgical wards

Updated July 20, 2017

Staff nurses working in medical surgical wards are specialised registered nurses (RNs) known as perioperative nurses. These nurses provide care to patients before, during and after surgical procedures. Patients undergoing surgery often feel physically and emotionally vulnerable; perioperative nurses know how to communicate with surgical patients to make them feel safe and confident. They also possess training in special techniques and treatments necessary to properly care for surgical wounds and address postsurgical pain.

Circulating Nurse

Circulating nurse responsibilities involve both preadmission and day-of-procedure care of the patient. The nurse will review any preadmission paperwork and notify the patient of any missing items. He will then interview the patient and family members to assess the possibility of problems that may occur during surgery. Examples of this duty include determining whether the patient has had any problems in the past during surgery or has any medical condition that may require special attention during the operation. The nurse will also answer any questions the patient and family members may have about the length of surgery and other surgical procedures.

Scrub Nurse

Scrub nurses work in the actual operating room during the surgery. They must be scrubbed up to the elbow with special soap designed to eliminate skin surface bacteria, and wear face masks and hairnets along with their operating room scrubs. These nurses pass sterile instruments to the surgeon as needed and try to anticipate the surgeon's needs as well as helping other specialists monitor patient status.

Recovery Nurse

The recovery nurse assists patients in recovering from the effects of anaesthesia. This most often occurs in a recovery room, where the nurse assists several postsurgical patients at once, but sometimes will occur in an intensive-care unit with a one-to-one nurse-to-patient ratio. Patients will experience some level of pain after surgery but must recover from the effects of anaesthesia before certain pain medications can be safely administered. In many institutions, this nurse will also educate the patient and family members in postoperative care such as wound dressing and pain management.

Other Perioperative Nurses

Some institutions have specialised perioperative nurses for pain management and patient education. A pain management nurse may prescribe pain medications to augment patient comfort during recovery. Patient educator nurses teach patients about caring for the surgical wound and arrange for any necessary physical therapy. These nurses may have special wound care training.

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About the Author

Based in Houston, Samantha Gluck has been writing articles targeting small businesses and the medical profession since 2000. She owns All Media Freelance, LLC, where she works as a professional copywriter. Gluck holds a Bachelor of Science in finance and an Associate of Science in microbiology from the University of Texas.