Overview: A usual first step on their career path for new RNs is practicing as a general medical-surgical (med-surg) nurse in an acute care hospital. In this position nurses practice as a generalist: with a little bit of knowledge about everything. The patients you will care for here may be of any age, suffer from any illness and be at any stage in their recovery. You will do everything from admitting teenagers who are newly post-operative from appendectomies to doing the final discharge teaching for an elderly patient going home for hospice care.
Job Outlook: Nursing as a whole will be one of the top 10 fastest growing professions in the U.S. in the next decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Positions in acute care hospitals on general medical-surgical units will always be available as the RNs currently employed there move on to specialty practice.
Opportunities: This is the best possible exposure to all types of patients, diagnoses, medications and treatments. You will put into practice all of the academic learning from your nursing degree. Exposure to all of these situations may sharpen your interest in a particular area of nursing or turn you into a committed generalist: someone who will remain a role model and preceptor for new RNs.
Challenges: The broad scope of knowledge required for this type of practice can seem overwhelming to a new RN. It is important to accept a position on a floor where the orientation for new RNs is of sufficient breadth and length. You will be assigned an official preceptor but look around for other willing RN mentors – there are many ways to practice nursing, try to experience more than one.