How to Become a Surgical Nurse Practitioner

surgical nurse working

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Specializing in surgery offers unique opportunities and benefits to health care professionals. The intensity of the operating room and the financial rewards of surgical subspecialties have made surgery one of the most sought-after career paths in medicine for both doctors and nurses. The surgical nurse practitioner role has an excellent job outlook and is widely regarded as one of the most prestigious positions in the profession.

Keep reading as we explain what a surgical nurse practitioner job entails and the steps you can take to become one.

What is a surgical nurse practitioner?

A surgical nurse practitioner is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who has received extensive training in surgical procedures. They help surgeons with various tasks that range from assisting with surgeries in the operating room to pre and post-op patient care.

Job duties of surgical nurse practitioners

Surgical nurse practitioners work in various environments within a medical facility. You can find them in operation rooms, in recovery units, and in emergency rooms. As a result, their day-to-day responsibilities consist of a wide range of tasks that cover the entire surgical cycle.

Here are some of the job duties that surgical nurses are expected to perform as part of the surgical team:

  • Managing patients’ concerns and inquiries before surgery
  • Performing hands-on surgery tasks, such as arthroscopic cameras and suturing wounds
  • Monitoring and assessing patients’ vital signs before, during, and after surgery
  • Performing post-op duties including follow up, wound care, and pain management
  • Administering medication
  • Managing admission and discharge paperwork
  • Mentoring surgical physician assistants

What level of education do surgical nurse practitioners need?

There are several paths to becoming a surgical NP. Most nurse practitioners enter the specialty after obtaining acute care or family nurse practitioner (FNP) credentialing. The latter option is the preferred credential since it doesn’t have the adult-only restriction that comes with licensure in Acute Care.

As for surgical nursing programs, nurse practitioners need to meet one of the following education requirements:

  • Obtaining registered nurse first assistant (RNFA) credentialing
  • Seeking medical-surgical RN (CMSRN) credentialing
  • Getting a master’s degree in surgical nursing

Keep in mind that nursing education requirements vary from one state to another. Before committing to a program, check with your local medical-surgical nursing certification board to get an idea of what is required from you to obtain the necessary nursing licenses.

How much do surgical nurse practitioners make?

As is the case with most health provider positions, compensation depends on several variables — such as surgical specialty, location of the practice, and years of experience. According to HR-reported data, the average salary of a surgical nurse practitioner is $111,184.

How can I become a surgical nurse practitioner?

Like any career pursuit in the health care field, becoming a surgical nurse practitioner requires years of hard work and a commitment to acquiring the necessary skills and credentials. Below is a basic breakdown of the steps you need to take to become a surgical nurse practitioner.

Complete a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) program

The first step of the process is completing a bachelor’s degree in the science of nursing (BSN). The bachelor of science coursework is more rigorous than the associate degree program and includes classes in pharmacology, patient care, clinical practice scenarios, and hands-on medical procedures.

Most BSN programs require applicants to have a GED with a GPA of 2.5 or greater and a minimum adjusted individual total score of 65% or greater in the ATI-TEAS admission exam.

Pass the NCLEX-RN exam

Before you can practice as a surgical nurse, you need to pass the NCLEX-RN exam to become a registered nurse. This computer-adaptive test tailors the exam to the applicant’s ability level. In other words, the number of questions will depend on the correctness of your responses.

To help increase your odds of passing the NCLEX-RN exam on your first try, consider prepping for it with SimpleNursing. Our subscription plans provide you with everything you need to ace the test — including detailed test-taking strategies for each question, top-notch practice questions, and comprehensive assessments that help you keep track of your progress.

Gain experience as a registered nurse

After passing the NCLEX exam, you can apply for a nursing license in your state and start looking for employment to gain experience in the field. Ideally, you should look for a position that involves extensive work for practice nurses in the operating room. A good place to start is to look for employment opportunities in specialty surgery clinics such as plastic surgery, orthopedic surgery, cardiac surgery, and pediatric surgery clinics.

Complete a master’s of science in nursing (MSN) program

Once you’ve gained experience as a registered nurse, the next step is to complete a postgraduate nursing degree. An MSN degree with a focus on surgical science gives you all the prerequisites you’ll need to embark on a successful career as a surgical nurse practitioner.

MSN programs are offered by schools across the country in part-time and full-time formats. Generally, you can expect to complete this degree in two years.

Acquire a surgical nurse practitioner position

Now that you have all the required degrees and licenses, it’s time to hit the job market. Keep an eye on job offers from local medical facilities. Sift through nursing job search sites to see if any available positions fit your profile. 

Study smarter for the NCLEX-RN exam with SimpleNursing

The NCLEX-RN is the exam that determines whether you’ll be able to exercise as a registered nurse. Therefore, it’s a crucial step in becoming a surgical nurse practitioner. Preparing for this test is not something that should be done in haste.

To maximize your chances of meeting the current passing standard, start studying the smart way with SimpleNursing!