Medical-surgical nurses seek to restore and maintain optimal patient health through the diagnosis and treatment of health problems. They also identify potential health risks and help promote good health to avoid disease. As the backbone of nursing practice, nurses working in this specialty are found in clinics, HMOs, urgent care centers and long-term care facilities. The Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses has established the standards and responsibilities of medical-surgical nurses.
The standards of care reflect the responsibilities medical-surgical nurses have to their patients. Nurses begin by assessing the client and collecting data to form a diagnosis. Using the diagnosis and assessment, nurses develop a desired or expected outcome and a plan to achieve it. Medical-surgical nurses then implement the care plan and continually evaluate the patient's progress and alter the plan as needed. The process is aimed at treating the individual's specific needs.
The Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses developed the standards so that they are measurable and easy to document. For example, when assessing patients, nurses collect data including medical history, environmental and economic factors that affect health and the client's lifestyle and behavior. This data is used to develop a diagnosis and plan, taking into account the patient's individual situation, cultural beliefs and available resources. All aspects of treatment aim to reach the desired outcome using current nursing practices and continued care.
Medical-surgical nurses are also held to professional standards that lay out expectation and responsibility for the nurse's behavior and professional development. Ensuring quality care is of primary importance in nursing. Undergoing performance evaluations and completing continuing education ensure that nurses provide the best care possible. In addition to taking continuing education courses, medical-surgical nurses participate in research and share knowledge and findings with colleagues. Adhering to good ethical practices helps to maintain public and patient trust. Nurses must use clear communication and collaborate effectively with patients and their family members, as well as with other health care professionals.
Meeting professional standards contributes to the consistent professional development of nurses. Regular performance appraisals reveal a nurse's strengths as well as areas that need improvement. Appraisals might include a plan to improve weaknesses and fill in gaps in knowledge and skill level. In addition, nurses should examine their behavior against the Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements and requires maintaining client confidentiality, providing nondiscriminatory care and reporting any cases of abuse.
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