How Do You Become A PACU Nurse?
"I have been reading about different nurse specializations since I am in the process of applying for nursing school. I am most interested in becoming a PACU nurse and working with patients who are recovering from surgery. I think it would be a really rewarding job to be able to support patients in that position, and the salary is definitely a draw too. How do I become one, though? Do I need any special training or certifications or anything?"
asked by Larry from Ames, IA
PACU nurse is not really an entry-level position; however, many hospitals are in great need of qualified PACU nurses. So as far as openings go, you should find plenty of opportunity in the coming years to become a PACU nurse. Before you do, though, you will need to build up some work experience and set yourself on the right track.
You will start out earning a degree in nursing, just as you plan to do. There is no specific degree for becoming a PACU nurse. Aim to become a registered nurse (RN) or a nurse practitioner (NP). You can do this through either a two- or four-year program. This always includes a practicum where you get hands-on experience on location working with real patients while you take your classes.
Once you have earned your associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing, you will be ready to start applying for jobs in nursing. Usually you will begin sending out your applications in your last semester of school.
Your first job in nursing will usually not be a PACU job, because PACU nurses take on a great deal of responsibility in their roles, and a new nurse is not ready for that. If you want to work in a PACU, it is best to aim for a role in the hospital which will provide you with the experience you need to advance on to the PACU. Usually the best choices are the critical care unit (CCU) or the emergency room (ER).
This is where hospital HR departments typically turn when it comes time to recruit for the PACU. CCU and ER nurses learn how to respond quickly under stress and make the best decisions for patients in critical condition. While most patients in the PACU are recovering, some may still be in critical condition, and sometimes there are complications after surgery.
That is why the experience you gain in the ER or CCU lends very well to working in the PACU. ER and CCU nurses are typically well paid too, which should make these entry-level positions appealing.
You are fortunate getting into nursing right now, because we live in a time when nurses are in high demand, and there is not enough supply out there to meet the demand. If you have your sights set on becoming a PACU nurse, you should have a pretty good chance of achieving your goal within a relatively short time frame if you stay committed and on target.