What Med Surg Nurse Skills Do Employers Want to See?

Brandi Glass
December 6, 20225 min read
Med Surg Smiling

Medical surgical nurses use an extensive range of skills every single shift, from clinical to interpersonal. With so many skills under your belt, you may struggle to work out which ones you should highlight when applying for jobs.

If you’re wondering which skills employers most want, keep reading. We’ll explore the med surg nurse skills that matter most to employers and how to best present them so that you can impress recruiters.

The Med Surg Nurse Skills that Hospitals Want

Depending on the hospital and the ward, some skills may be more important than others. However, generally speaking, these are the main things that hospitals want from their med surg nurses.

Bedside Manner and Other Patient Management Skills:

  • Active listening
  • Empathy
  • The ability to explain medical conditions, procedures and treatments in an easy-to-understand way
  • Patient advocacy
  • People skills

Understanding of Patient Rights:

  • Consent
  • Privacy
  • Confidentiality of information
  • Organ donation
  • Do not resuscitate orders
  • Use of interpreters

Clinical Skills:

  • Triaging
  • Completing medical records
  • Pain management
  • Cardiovascular
  • Pulmonary
  • Neurology
  • Gastrointestinal
  • Endocrine
  • Musculoskeletal
  • Oncology
  • Pediatrics
  • Phlebotomy
  • Treating burns
  • IV drips
  • Knowledge of medications and their administration

General Skills:

  • Prioritizing
  • Critical thinking
  • Problem-solving
  • Responding well to feedback
  • Teamwork
  • Attention to detail

How to Highlight Your Med Surg Nurse Skills on Your Resume

Having these essential med surg nurse skills isn’t enough to get hired. You also need to know how to show employers that you have them.

Recruiters and employers discard resumes in a matter of seconds if they don’t find the skills they’re looking for. So, follow these key steps to ensure your resume makes it through to the next round:

Create a Skills Section at the Start of Your Resume

By including the skills section at the beginning of your resume, you’ll make sure it’s the first thing recruiters see. Place it after your professional summary but before your career history, and use a bullet point list so it’s more reader-friendly. This structure, which is also called a hybrid resume structure, is the ideal choice for nearly every med surg nurse.

Select Your Skills Carefully

Ideally, you’ll include six to ten med surg nurse skills in the skills section. If you have more than ten skills that you want to highlight, you should pick the ones that you think are the most important for the role and health center. Then, include the other skills in descriptions of your previous work experience or education.

Use the Phrasing From the Job Listing

Try to use the exact same phrasing as the job listing. Recruiters are likely to scan your resume for these specific phrases, while computer systems may filter out applications without them.

Back Up Your Med Surg Nurse Skills with Evidence

You don’t have a lot of space to elaborate on your skills, so your evidence will need to be concise and impactful. Where possible, provide quantitative details, such as how many hours you’ve spent on the relevant ward.

How to Show Off Your Med Surg Nurse Skills in Interviews

Your resume will get you through to the interview stage. But once you’re sat in front of a recruiter or potential employer, you’ll need to demonstrate your skills all over again.

This is a good thing: the interview is an excellent opportunity to make a lasting impression on recruiters. Compared to your resume, it will give you more time to talk about your skill sets, as well as the chance to provide other types of evidence for them.

Follow these guidelines to make the most of your interview.

Acknowledge Your Weaknesses

There’s a reason that interviewers often ask you to talk about your weaknesses. They know that every med surg nurse has them, and so their concern is finding out how you compensate for them.

Claiming that you’re skilled at everything will just make interviewers question whether you actually have any of the skill sets you claim to possess. Conversely, by acknowledging your weaknesses, you’ll demonstrate a level of self-awareness that will help convince recruiters that you really do have the strengths you’ve mentioned.

Take the time to identify what your weaknesses are. Then, prepare answers explaining how you compensate for these.

For example, perhaps you have limited pulmonary experience. You could talk about how your awareness of this leads you to take extra caution regarding patient safety or that you’ve requested to shadow a more experienced med surg nurse in the respiratory ward. Wrap up by emphasizing how you think these actions have helped you improve and led to better patient outcomes.

Provide Evidence

Lack of space on your resume meant that you had to keep your evidence succinct and quantitative. In an interview, however, you can expand on this. Consider using:

  • Quantitative facts and figures
  • Anecdotes with a successful outcome
  • Positive appraisals from your coworkers and supervisors

In particular, anecdotes can be extremely memorable. Numbers might impress the recruiter in the moment, but when they’re thinking back on the interview, it’s the story that’s likely to stick in their mind.

Use the STAR Model

Any time you share an anecdote, you should use the STAR (situation, task, action, result) model to structure your answer. It will help you underscore the importance of your actions as well as their positive impact.

For example, when demonstrating your people skills, you could say:

“The patient was a young child whose parents were extremely anxious (situation). I needed to communicate with and calm down both the child and their parents (task).

“I spoke to the parents first, knowing that they could then help me communicate with their child. Adopting a calm and confident demeanor, I used easy-to-understand language. I reassured the parents that it was a common procedure and that they would be kept fully informed of updates. Then, once the parents’ minds were set at ease, I talked to their child with them present (action).

“The parents were much calmer, which in turn, meant that the child was more relaxed (result).”

Build a Skills-Focused Med Surg Nurse Resume in Minutes

Your resume needs to draw attention to your med surg nurse skills, while also being machine-readable, professionally laid out and customized to the health center you’re applying to.

Our medical surgical nurse templates will help you get started. You’ll be able to pick from a range of resume styles and recruiter-approved phrasing so you can stand out from other applicants. Plus, our resume builder will suggest the ideal resume structure based on your level of professional experience.

It will take you just a few minutes to write a professional, skills-focused resume, so get started now.