Surgical Nursing

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Surgical patients (those who have undergone a minor or major operation)are nursed on different wards to medical patients in the UK, and the nursing skills used are different to those of medical nurses.

Surgical nurses may practice in different types of surgery:

General surgery (e.g. appendicectomy, gallbladder removal)
Vascular surgery (e.g. varicose vein surgery, aortic aneurysm repair)
Colo-rectal surgery (e.g. stoma formation)
Surgical Oncology (e.g. breast surgery, tumour resections)
Orthopaedic surgery (e.g. knee or hip replacements, fracture repair)
Urolological surgery (e.g. prostate surgery)
Day surgery (or ambulatory surgery, where a patient is discharged within 24 hours)

Surgical nurses are responsible for approximately 6 patients, depending on their condition.must be able to prepare a patient for surgery, and look after the post-operative patient after they have been discharged from the Recovery unit or PACU (post anaesthesia care unit). Preparation involves ensuring pre-medication is administered, the patient has made informed consent, the required blood-tests have been done, the patient is correctly labelled, allergies have been noted and has been fasted appropriately. Post-operatively the patient must be closely observed for signs of shock or arrest. The nurse also ensures the wound created by the surgery is intact, and must be knowledgeable in wound care and the care of surgical drains. Pain and post-operative nausea and vomiting are two common patient problems after surgery, and the nurse must be skilled in the management of these problems.
The nurse is also responsible for the safe discharge of the patient, that the patient has all the advice necessary for speedy recovery and that support systems are in place if necessary. To become a surgical nurse, one must have undertaken appropriate training, and be registered with the state nursing board (Nursing and Midwifery Council, UK; An Bord Altranais, Rep. of Ireland). [1]


  1. Surgical Nursing 12th ed. (1997) Torrance & Serginson (Bailliere Tindall)