Andrew Wettengel / Monday, March 29, 2021 / Categories: Work World


Being a travel nurse is a tough but rewarding job. Medical-surgical registered nurses (RN) are some of the most likely to become travel nurses. But what is it like being a traveling medical-surgical nurse? We talked to some of our OneStaff Medical travelers to find out what a day in their lives looks like, so you don't have to!

What Is a Medical-Surgical Nurse?

Often called med surg nurses, medical-surgical nurses provide medical care for adults preparing for or recovering from a surgical procedure. Med surg nurses often have a variety of duties, including:

  • Checking vitals,
  • Giving medications,
  • Caring for wounds,
  • Assessing patient condition,
  • Updating records, and
  • Running tests

Medical-surgical nurses also work with patients who have undergone various surgical procedures and have different medical histories, meaning that every patient will likely have completely different needs. For this reason, medical-surgical nurses need to adapt quickly to each patient, and each day will likely be very different from the last.

What Does a Day Look Like for a Med Surg Nurse?

To learn more about what a day in a medical-surgical nurse's life looks like, we spoke to two of our travel nurses: Macey G. and Rachelle P.

How Do You Prepare for a Shift?

Preparing for a med surg shift looks different for every nurse. How a med surg nurse prepares for their shift depends on many factors, including shift time and personal needs. For Macey, preparing for a shift includes making breakfast and getting a workout in. Since Rachelle works nights, she sleeps during the day and tries to make sure she is at work at least 30 minutes early to ensure that she has plenty of time to figure out which floor she is working on and review her patients' files.

What Do You Do When You Show Up for a Shift?

Showing up early to a shift is an essential aspect of being an excellent nurse. Both Macey and Rachelle are always early for their shifts because it allows them to research their patients. They both like to review their patients prior to receiving reports from the nurses about to end their shifts.

For Rachelle, another essential component is checking in on her patients early. "I make my own rounds to assure myself that before I receive my patients they are all fine," she said.

Rachelle said that YouTube helped her better understand what to expect before her first assignment. She mentioned that showing up to her first assignment was nerve-racking because she didn't know anything about the system that nurses tend to follow to ensure patient care is superb.

Walk Us Through Your Shift

For nurses, there is no "typical" shift. Every single shift is different, and something unexpected will likely arise. Macey said, "You just have to roll with the punches."

Rachelle pointed out that while every shift is unpredictable, they also provide learning experiences for the nurses. The unpredictability requires med surg nurses' adaptability, as they never know what kinds of cases they will be dealing with or what will happen with their patients.

How Do You Help Your Patients that Might Surprise People?

Medical-surgical nurses spend their shifts taking care of patients' medical needs. While every nurse's primary job is to tend to medical needs, they often do much more than that. For Macey and Rachelle, talking and listening to patients is an important duty.

"I treat my patients like my own family," Rachelle said. "I listen to their stories, advice, and their frustrations, too."

For Rachelle, each shift leads to a connection with her patients. She feels for every patient and their families.

What Do You Do After a Shift?

For most nurses, spending time with family after a shift is the norm. Macey likes to spend time with her husband and cat, while Rachelle likes to take a warm shower and spend some quality time with her son and husband. Rachelle likes to watch movies and TV shows, as well.

"I try my best not to think of work; otherwise, I would be up the rest of the day," Rachelle said.

How Do You Unwind from a Hard Shift?

Nursing is a tough job. Not only is the work physically strenuous, but being a nurse can be emotionally draining as well. After a hard shift, it is crucial to find ways to unwind. For Macey, this means exploring the area of her current assignment with her husband. She also likes to take weekend trips when she has the weekends off.

For Rachelle, sleep provides the best escape from work stress. Spending time in nature also calms her down. She visits state and national parks when she can.

What Impact Has COVID Had on Your Day-to-Day?

For Rachelle, the COVID-19 pandemic initially caused a lot of anxiety. Working on the COVID floor for months with a two-year-old at home brought about the fear of bringing the virus home, which was a lot for Rachelle to bear. However, things got easier. "I realized that as long as you know what you are doing to protect yourself, you should be okay," she said. "Just take it one day at a time and breathe once in a while. All this will pass before we know it."

Macey is trying to help patients deal with the lack of visitors at the hospital. She said that COVID has made work a lot different, but she is trying to be extra caring to her patients during these challenging times. Easing the loneliness of her patients is just one way she provides an extra level of care.

What Should Other Nurses Know About Travel Nursing?

Like all nursing jobs, travel nursing can be really stressful. While Rachelle acknowledges that the job is stressful, she said, "I never thought that travel nursing could be this fun!"

Macey said, "If you're thinking about travel nursing, DO IT!" She is currently on her first assignment, but she is already having an incredible experience. She loves seeing different things and meeting new people. She enjoys the lifestyle both inside and outside of work.

Are you considering becoming a traveling medical-surgical nurse? Do you think the traveling lifestyle is right for you? Contact OneStaff Medical today to learn more about starting your travel nursing journey as a med-surg nurse. You can reach us at 877-783-1483! OR BROWSE ALL OF OUR TOP-PAYING MED-SURG TRAVEL NURSE JOBS HERE

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