A Day in the Life of a Surgical Nurse - Just a Girly Nurse
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A Day in the Life of a Surgical Nurse

BUSY. There’s a word for it!

Working in med/surg is wild. There’s never a dull moment, which allows for incredible learning opportunities and experiences. Now, this entirely depends on the type of floor you’re working on, your hospital’s policies and your governing nursing body or union; however, this is a day in the life of ME as a surgical RN:

0630 – 0700: 

  • Clock in!
  • I always took this time to sip on my coffee and chat with my coworkers, who are also some amazing friends – this always helped to put me in a good mood for the day
  • Typically taking report either verbally or via the report notes from the off-going nurse

0700 – 0900:

  • The day begins – I would always ensure I was on the floor, providing nursing care by 0700
  • Time to do vitals and assessments of all my patients (usually 4-5 patients on days)
  • Sift through new orders and get organized/prioritize my day
  • Provide personal care alongside PSWs / PCAs to patients who require assistance and get them up for breakfast


  • Morning medication pass
  • Ensure all patients have been washed up and were able to have breakfast (unless they’re NPO)


BREAK TIME!! (It is so important to take your breaks. Breaks are necessary both physically and emotionally, even on days when you feel like you can just keep going – you can’t and you shouldn’t for the safety of your patients and yourself)


  • Time to complete nursing tasks for the day and chart (I always like to chart as I go, as I find it allows me to remember details and helps me with time management)
  • Mid-day medication pass
  • If all of my patients have dressings to complete for the day, I typically like to get at least half of my dressings done in this time frame
  • Help the PSWs / PCAs answer call bells


LUNCH TIME!! (Of course, these times may vary, I just prefer to take my lunch a little later when I’m working a 12-hour shift, as I find it splits up the day a little bit better)


  • Complete the rest of your nursing duties for the day (i.e. dressings, personal care, mobilizing patients, etc.)
  • Patients typically begin to come up to the floor from PACU (post-anaesthetic care unit) during this time frame. You need to take report, do a full head-to-toe assessment on the patient when they arrive to the unit, and ensure all their orders are in place.
  • Evening medication pass


  • Ensure your patient care is complete for the day and you are prepared to hand your care over to the oncoming nurse (always do your best to finish what should be completed on your shift – this is not always possible on very busy days, but always try not to leave a mess for oncoming staff).
  • Write/prepare report
  • Ensure all of your charting and documentation is complete for the day
  • Check in with your patients and ensure they are aware shift change will be occurring within the next hour (this will help patients understand if their call bell is not answered right away and will ensure they know you will be leaving for the day)


It’s a busy, busy day, but remember you can only do what you can within your 12 hours. You are not a superhero (even though your nursing title may lead our patients to believe that, haha!). Ask for help when you need it. Always ask questions. Always be inquisitive, and always check your ego at the door. Care for your patients in the same way you would want someone to care for your sick mother, grandfather, partner, etc. Med-surg will teach you so much and will create an essential foundation for your entire nursing career.

@justagirlynurse, xx