Med-Surg Nursing: both a foundation and a destination
by Diana Jean Baratta is the Director of Adult Inpatient Services
There is no question that beginning one’s nursing career in a medical-surgical unit gives new nursing professionals a solid, well-rounded basis out of nursing school. This is well known as a means to build a solid nursing foundation.
Over my career, I’ve too often heard it characterized as a “less-sexy” option to working in critical care or emergency or mom-baby. Many nurses plan to move into these other areas after a year or two.
However, I think there’s a richness and a variety in med-surg that can make it a destination and not just a stepping stone.
To be honest, out of nursing school, I had no intention of going into med-surg. I was thinking cardiac and indeed, I spent a year doing that work. But I found my home on a medical unit and I never looked back.
There’s a couple of reasons I continue to be drawn to this kind of nursing.
Why I choose med-surg
Medical surgical nursing offers great variety. A nurse will experience something different every day. If you’re the kind of person who likes more unpredictability, then the medical floors are for you. For those who prefer to follow more linear pathways, the surgical floor tends to be more appealing. Either is active and requires nurses to really engage.
In a hospital the size of Tucson Medical Center, with 600 beds, med-surg begins to split into subspecialties. At TMC, we have bariatric surgery recovery, for instance, and medical floors with specialties in areas like oncology. We have a neuro floor that specializes in stroke care and we have orthopaedics with spinal, hip and knee procedures.
In medical-surgical nursing, our patients are alert and with you and require you to be really receptive while working with them. Nursing, no matter where you work, has its holistic elements, and when your patient needs you to listen and respond, it’s a chance to bring all of those physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects to your practice.
That was the big difference for me – the ability to work on these behavioral and psychological aspects of nursing.
I’m thinking of a gentleman whose wife was dying. He was a large man -threatening and angry and the nurses were scared of him. I looked him in the eye and I said, “You must love her very much.” I couldn’t help but tear up as I said this, the emotions were so raw. Right then, he melted and he cried and then he was able to have a different experience from then on.
I had another gentleman, again, angry and nasty and really just difficult for the staff. I asked him what I could do to help and he asked for a chaplain. He had been diagnosed with metastatic cancer and had not long to live and didn’t know how to process that. The chaplain came and helped him through that.
That’s when we get to make those connections.
Why Tucson Medical Center
And I find it’s maybe even a deeper experience here at TMC. On the one hand, there are professional benefits here, from the specialization opportunities to a very collaborative environment with our nursing managers, as well as opportunities to float to different areas or shadow to gain new experiences and knowledge.
But beyond that, this is a community hospital and it has a family feel and a warmth that is unique to this space. Even though we’re a city of 1 million, it feels like a friendly town, where our patients are often our neighbors or even family members of those we work with.
Diana Jean Baratta is the Director of Adult Inpatient Services at Tucson Medical Center. She is married, has three adult children, and two grandchildren. She has enjoyed many years in health care and has been a nurse leader for over 10 years.