If you’re exploring your possibilities for employment in the medical field, and are wondering if the job of a post-anesthesia nurse is for you, keep reading and learn everything about the job. We’re going to explain what a post-anesthesia care unit nurse is, what they do, and how you can become one.
What Is a Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) Nurse?
Post-anesthesia care unit nurse is a healthcare professional who specialises in the care of patients who have undergone anaesthesia. They observe and treat patients after surgery and ensure that they wake up safely when sedation stops working.
As some patients experience side effects, it is important that a professional observes them and makes sure that the side effects are not serious or dangerous. A PACU nurse will closely monitor them and measure their level of consciousness.
Usually, the first person patients see after surgery is the nurse from PACU. It is therefore very important that she comforts the patients and gives answers to any questions the patients or their families may have.
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What does a PACU nurse do?
A post-anesthesia care unit nurse primarily cares for patients who awaken from anaesthesia. They monitor the patient’s vital signs and state of consciousness and watch for any side effects the patient may suffer.
PACU nurses care for a variety of patients and work in a high-pressure environment. Depending on the workplace, they may help patients get up or change their hospital clothes. They may also administer medication to patients to relieve pain.
Duties & responsibilities of PACU
Depending on the workplace, the nurse PACU may have different duties and responsibilities. Some of the most common are:
- Monitoring patients under and after anaesthesia
- Checking patient vital signs during and after anaesthesia
- Dealing with possible side effects of anaesthesia such as nausea, headaches, etc.
- Administering pain-relieving medications when needed
- Helping patients get up after anaesthesia and measuring their level of consciousness
- Providing answers to patients and their families and educating them about recovery after surgery
- Communicate with other members of the medical team
- Updating patients’ charts, files and records
- Maintaining dressings, bandages, etc., and cleaning them as needed
Working as a nurse on the post-anaesthesia care unit means that you will be working in a fast-paced environment and under a lot of pressure. One of the most important qualities you should bring is that you can work well under pressure and be empathetic towards patients. You will need to be calm and reassuring to patients and their families, educating them about recovery after surgery and answering any other questions they may have.
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How do you become a PACU nurse?
If you want to become a PACU nurse, you will have to undergo special training. The training path is similar to that of a lead registered nurse.
First, you need a degree in nursing, which you can earn with an ADN (Associate Degree in Nursing), which takes about two years, or a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing), which can be completed in four years.
After that, you’ll need to become a registered nurse, which you can do by taking the NCLEX-RN test. Once you pass the test, you can seek employment in the nursing field, as you must have several years of experience as a registered nurse before becoming a PACU nurse.
To become certified as a PACU nurse, you must have at least 1800 hours of clinical experience.
What makes a good PACU nurse?
To be an excellent nurse for the post-anaesthesia care unit, you must possess several important qualities. The first is that you must be communicative, as you will often need to talk to your patients and explain their condition after surgery and the recovery process. You must be able to communicate clearly and explain health-related information in simple terms.
You also need to be able to think critically and solve possible complications that might occur during anaesthesia. You need to have broad knowledge as you will be caring for many different patients with different needs.
Another important factor that makes a good PACU nurse is that you are detail-oriented and have a good memory. Since you will be helping several patients at the same time, you must be able to remember the dosages administered and other important details about each patient you care for.
Last but not least, you must love helping and caring for people. This job is often very stressful and therefore not suitable for someone who does not really love it, because such a person could experience burnout.
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How much does PACU Nurse make in the EU?
The average salary of PACU nurses in Europe varies from country to country. One of the most important factors that determine your salary is your experience and level of knowledge.
In Germany, the average salary for a PACU nurse is 65,000 EUR per year, in Ireland you can expect about 44,000 EUR per year and in Italy 55,000 EUR.