A smiling female surgeon

How to Become a Surgical Nurse Practitioner

Duties, Responsibilities, Schooling, Requirements, Certifications, Job Outlook, and Salary

A smiling female surgeon

Nursing is a highly rewarding career choice. Plus, the ongoing demand for nurses is among the highest of any profession. Unlike many careers, nursing also allows you to specialize in myriad areas of interest. By focusing on a healthcare niche or patient group, nurses can further expand their career options and their earning potential.

For many registered nurses, the path to specialization begins with earning their Master of Science in Nursing degree (or MSN). Many of the highest paid nursing jobs require an MSN degree. To help you get a feel for the possibilities, we developed a series of career guides detailing a few of the top nursing professions that require an MSN.

(Click here to see our list of the top nursing jobs you can get with an MSN degree)

In this guide, we’ll head into the operating room with the surgical nurse practitioner. We’ll delve into what it takes to become a surgical nurse practitioner, along with the duties, requirements, and benefits of this in-demand nursing specialization.

Surgical Nurse Practitioner Definition

What Is a Surgical Nurse Practitioner?

Surgical nurse practitioners (or SNPs) are registered nurses who work within an operating theater alongside a larger medical team. Surgical nurses perform a variety of duties before, during, and after a surgery in support of the surgical staff as well as the patient.

Surgical Nurse Practitioner: Job Description

What Does a Surgical Nurse Practitioner Do?

Nurse smiling at patient

Surgical nurse practitioners work with surgeons, physicians, and other clinical staff to determine the best care for every patient.

The primary responsibility of a surgical nurse is to prepare their patients before surgery as well as providing immediate care to them after their surgery. Surgical nurse practitioners may also aid surgeons, providing medical instruments, operating suction tools and other surgical equipment, and suturing patient incisions.

Surgical Nurses: Day-to-Day Responsibilities

Some of the day-to-day responsibilities of Surgical Nurse Practitioners include:

  • Assessing new patients
  • Discussing various options for surgery with both patients and families
  • Consulting with patients after their operation
  • Monitoring patients’ vital signs
  • Performing tests before and after surgery
  • Administering medications under the direction of a physician or surgeon
  • Assisting surgeons and other medical staff during an operation
  • Helping patients understand their recovery path

What Kind of Personality Traits Make a Good Surgical Nurse Practitioner?

While the role of a surgical nurse practitioner is exciting and varied, it’s not for everyone. These are some of the personal characteristics that make a good surgical NP.

  • Detail oriented
  • Flexible
  • Team oriented
  • Adept with technical skills
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Ability to set priorities in fast-paced setting
  • Ability to think critically under stress
  • Ability to remain calm and composed in life-threatening patient situations

Surgical Nurse Practitioner Jobs

Where Do Surgical Nurse Practitioners Work?

Surgical nurse practitioners typically work in hospital operating rooms, ambulatory surgical centers, VA Medical Centers, academic medical centers, and private surgical suites.

Surgical Nurse Practitioner Schooling & Certification

What Education Level Is Required and How Long Will It Take?

Becoming a surgical nurse practitioner requires a significant level of education and training beyond simply passing the NCLEX-RN certification exam.

You must start with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, and then add a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. In some settings, the employer will also require additional specialized certifications in surgical care.

Here are the steps required to become a Surgical Nurse Practitioner:

Step 1. Earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Degree

Option 1: The first step to becoming a SNP is earning your Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree. If you have no prior nursing education or experience, a BSN program will take you about three to four years to complete.

Option 2: If you already have a diploma or associates degree in nursing (ADN), you can enroll in an RN-to-MSN program. Programs such as these could take an average of three years of full-time study.

Option 3: If you have a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field, you can skip the BSN and earn an MSN degree by completing what’s known as a Masters Entry Program in Nursing (or MEPN). These programs provide an accelerated nursing curriculum to non-nursing college graduates.

Step 2. Earn your Master of Science in Nursing Degree (MSN)

Upon earning your BSN, you must become specialized in surgical nursing. This can be achieved by earning your MSN degree with a focus in surgical science. Most MSN programs take about 18 to 24 months to complete.

Whether you choose to become a surgical nurse practitioner or not, earning your MSN is a great way to expand your career options and earning potential.

Step 3. Pass the NCLEX-RN Certification Exam

Upon graduating from your BSN or MEPN program, the next step to becoming a surgical nurse practitioner is earning your nursing license. The National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) is a nationally mandated examination that all nurses must take and pass to become licensed as a registered nurse (RN).

Step 4. Get Certified in Surgical Nursing

Although certification is optional, some employers may require it. As an MSN-RN, you can apply for certification in a variety of surgical specializations such as adult cardiac surgery, intensive care, and plastic surgery.

If you want to pursue a surgical nursing license, you can earn certification through the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses (AMSN). The AMSN offers a Certified Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse (CMSRN) credential through the Medical-Surgical Nursing Certification Board (MSNCB). To learn more about the requirements to become certified as a CMSRN, click here.

What Are Some Surgical Specializations?

When earning your MSN, you’ll focus on surgical nursing. These are some examples of surgical specialties:

  • General surgery
  • Neurosurgery
  • Orthopedic surgery
  • Otolaryngology/ENT surgery
  • Pediatric surgery
  • Plastic surgery
  • Transplant surgery
  • Vascular or cardiothoracic surgery

Surgical Nurse Practitioner Salary

How Much Do Surgical Nurse Practitioners Make?

According to Salary.com, surgical nurse practitioners earn an annual median salary* of about $112,000. The highest-paid 10 percent of surgical nurses can earn over $128,000.

The salary* of a surgical nurse practitioner can vary depending on many factors, including education, level of certification, and experience. Of course, where you’re working also directly impacts salary.

What Is the Job Outlook for Surgical Nurse Practitioners?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not report any specific data related to the job outlook of surgical nurse practitioners. However, the BLS does indicate that the overall employment of nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, and nurse midwives is expected to grow 45% by 2030.

Surgical Nurse Practitioner Career

Are You Ready to Start Your Career as a Surgical Nurse Practitioner?

Medical team performing an operation

A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree can lead to many wonderful career opportunities that are beyond the reach of the RN certification alone. Becoming a surgical nurse practitioner is just one example.

If you enjoy solving problems on your feet while working in high-pressure situations, then becoming a surgical nurse may be the perfect area of specialization.

If you’re ready to take the next step towards becoming an SNP, you can start by earning your MSN degree at Eagle Gate College.

Click here to learn more about our MSN program, as well as our MEPN program.