In this article, we’re going to give some tips for new med surg nurses so you can be successful right out of the gate.

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Medical-Surgical nursing or “med-surg” is one of the biggest nursing specialty.

Many nurses are encouraged to start their illustrious career in med-surg.

The primary reason med-surg is recommended is so nurses can get their skills “down” before moving to their desired area of choice.

While we don’t necessarily agree that all nurses need to start in med-surg, it is an excellent opportunity to learn, grow, and lay the foundations for a successful nursing career.

Every experienced med-surg nurse you see that confidently handles a situation was a new grad med surg nurse at some point.

What we’re going to do below is highlight some tips new med surg nurses should know.

Tips for New Grad Med Surg Nurses

1. Make Sure You Have a Good Preceptor

Many experienced nurses might not agree with this, but I cannot stress enough the value of a good nursing preceptor.

Your preceptor as a new grad nurse is going to make or break your career in the med surg.

Actually, not just that but they really are going to make or break your career as a nurse.

Here’s what I mean your preceptor is going to give you advice on what you should or shouldn’t do in a given situation.

More than that a good preceptor should be somebody you can rely on or seek their advice on things long after your orientation ends.

In a lot of ways, they are helping you lay your foundations in nursing.

But unfortunately, many preceptors are not going to be that for various reasons some preceptors just aren’t going to be very good.

If you start seeing signs that your preceptor is not going to help you succeed, then it might be time to have a conversation with your manager to see where the problem might be.

2. Learn the Mechanics of Starting an IV

I used to not be very good at starting IVs. I’m still not the very best, but I’ve gotten a lot better over the years.

There are two reasons for this. The first is repetition.

If you’re not very good at IVs, you’re going to want to pass this off to somebody else if you can.

Don’t. At least try first before passing it off. Repetition will make you better with time.

The second reason I’ve gotten better is I’ve watched a lot of other nurses start IVs, and I’ve asked a lot of questions.

The main reason you should get better at starting an IV is that you can’t always depend on other nurses for this.

Another nurse might not be immediately available to get an IV started for you, and that would only slow you down.

3. Make Sure You Have a Teachable Mentality

Above I mentioned the importance of a good preceptor. Well, a good preceptor is only half the battle.

You’re the other half. If you come to work an arrogant know-it-all and are not teachable, then you’re going to have a hard time succeeding.

Instead, show up with an open mind to learn from your preceptor and other experienced nurses

4. Learn About Common Med Surg Nursing Practices and Terminology

Like any area of nursing, you’re going to hear and see terminology you might not see anywhere else.

Many med-surg floors are general floors where you’re going to be seeing patients with all sorts of different illnesses and conditions.

You don’t need to know everything.

But just become familiar with some of the more common occurrences you’re going to see as a med-surge nurse.

You don’t really need to pay for anything you can just search online and find some helpful resources.

If you’re wanting some resources with the information all in the same spot here are some useful books you can buy off Amazon

If you decide to get them let us know what you think in the comments below.

5. Ask Questions

Don’t show up to work with a know-it-all attitude. Don’t act like you know everything. Because you don’t.

As a new grad nurse, other nurses are going to expect you to ask questions. Honestly, it would be weird if you didn’t.

You’re not going to look dumb. The opposite is actually going to happen.

By asking questions, your fellow nurses will think you’re smart (source).

Part of that is because you’re seeking wisdom and advice from those who know it.

The other reason is that people, in general, are flattered when other people are asking them for advice.

6. Get Your Routine Going

Getting your rhythm and routine down will go a long way to making your time in med surg a lot easier. Some things to think about could be.

  • What are you going to do before taking report?
  • What tasks do you focus on after getting report on your patients?
  • When are you going to chart on your patients?

If you need help coming up with a routine try asking your preceptor or one of the more experienced nurses and see what their routines are and why.

7. Learn How to Prioritize

You’re going to be overwhelmed by the number of patients they’re going to assign to you.

As a result, you’re going to be overwhelmed by the number of tasks you’re going to have.

Some patients are going to be a lot more needy or demanding than others.

Even with all of that, you need to learn to prioritize and stick with it. Everything will need to be done, and it is going to get done eventually.

But some things are more important than others.

8. Remember the Difference Between Textbook and Real Life

I can’t tell you how many new nurses I’ve seen that have been surprised at how different actually working as a nurse is versus the NCLEX world.

The NCLEX environment gives you a patient who only has one illness with no comorbidities.

For example, you’re unlikely to get a patient who only has diabetes.

The NCLEX also doesn’t take into account your workload or any other administrative hang-ups.

9. Find a Good Mentor

If you have an excellent preceptor, then you might already have this taken care of.

Something else to think about is even if your preceptor is a good mentor there’s a good chance there will be plenty of shifts you’re not working with them.

What this means is you should seek out other nurses who would be good mentors.

Nurses you could come to for your questions.

If you need help with this try asking your preceptor for names of nurses that have been there a while and are great resources.

10. Be Helpful to Other Nurses

When you’re not very busy, and your patients are stable, see who else needs help.

If you see some of your nurse co-workers struggling, and you can help them.

Please do.

There will come a time you’re going to need the help, and if you didn’t extend a hand when you could have, you might not get the support yourself.

11. Beware of Nurse Burnout

Nursing is a very stressful job. As a new grad med surg nurse, your stress level is going to be off the chart.

  • Being new is going to stress you out.
  • Patients are going to stress you out.
  • The doctors are going to stress you out.
  • Your nurse co-workers.
  • Administration.
  • We haven’t even mentioned your personal life.

Granted not all of these things are going to stress you out at the same time, but still.

What you need to do is learn how to manage that stress.

We wrote an article about nurse burnout, that’s an excellent resource for managing your stress level.

12. Do Not Work A Lot

As a new nurse, you’re going to be tempted to work a lot of hours.

You’re going to see how much money you could make and the opportunity for overtime. We’re not saying you shouldn’t work extra hours.

What we’re saying is to be mindful of the number of hours you work your first couple of years because overworking yourself is a good way to speed up the nurse burnout process.

13. Take Care of Your Nurse’s Aide

I see so many nurses abuse their techs, and it’s just sad.

Just because you’re a registered nurse (RN) or a licensed practical nurse (LPN) doesn’t mean you can’t turn patients.

Take out food trays. Or clean up the patient. If there’s something else more pressing than absolutely do that.

But if there isn’t, don’t be standing around not doing anything and leave it all to your tech.

They are just as overworked as you are. A good tech can make your life so much easier.

So do your part to try to keep the good ones around.

14. Learn to Prioritize

Everything is important, and everything needs to be done. But it doesn’t mean everything needs to be done right this very second.

Prioritization is the key to a successful nursing career as a med surg nurse.

A patient pressing the call light because they want their pillow fluffed doesn’t take precedence over a decompensating patient or a post-op patient.

This is another area where seeking the wisdom and guidance of more seasoned nurses are very beneficial to your growth.

An experienced nurse can help show you how to prioritize tasks.

(In case if you were wondering. “Do they know they put prioritization twice on here.” The answer to that questions is yes. Yes we do. It’s that important. )

15. Make Sure to Document

You’re going to want to skip your documentation. If not you’re going to want to breeze through it and move on.

I get it.

But you need to resist the urge. Remember what they said in nursing school if it’s not charted it didn’t happen.

Make sure to give yourself credit for doing what you did.

16. Be Your Own Advocate

You have to be your own advocate.

If you don’t look out for yourself and take care of yourself, nobody else will. Look out for your best interest.

And lastly…

17. Breath

It’s ok to cry. It really is. Probably not in front of your patients, though.

You’re going to be overwhelmed and some days are going to suck. You know what?

You’re going to make it through, and you’re going to be a successful med surg nurse.

Take it one day at a time and remember to stop every now and down and take a deep breath.

New Med Surg Nurse Resources

If you’re wanting some more resources to help you on your journey as a med-surg nurse. Feel free to check out some of these resources.


A med surg floor.

We hope you enjoyed this article.

Being a new nurse in the medical-surgical unit is going to be challenging, but you can do it.

Hang in there. It does get better with time.

Let us know what you think below. Are there any tips we might have missed?

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