What Are The Duties Of A PACU Nurse?

"I am hoping to find a career where I can earn a really great salary as a nurse. I’m already looking into nursing schools, and I know that I want to be a nurse, but I just have not decided on something to specialize in. I am hoping to work part time, which is one of the reasons I want to find a job which earns a little more than the average. I read somewhere that PACU nurses make a lot of money. What does a PACU nurse do?"

asked by Elizabeth from Cincinnati, OH

You heard correctly when you heard that PACU nurses are paid more than many other types of nurses. It is definitely a great specialty to look into. PACU stands for “postanesthesia care unit.” It is the ward in the hospital where patients are sent to recovery directly after surgery. Here, doctors and nurses provide care for patients who are coming out of anesthesia, whether it is general, regional, or local.

While your patients are in the PACU, as a PACU nurse, your job will be to monitor them to ensure their safety while they are still under anesthesia. Patients under general anesthesia are usually still unconscious when they are transferred to the PACU. You will monitor their vital signs, including their blood pressure, pulse, heart rate, and oxygen supply.

Pain management will account for a large part of what you do in the PACU. Most surgical patients have a lot of pain to deal with when they wake up, so you will need to be able to properly administer them the medications which they need to stay as comfortable as possible. Patients often vomit after they wake up from surgery as well, so you will also need to be able to help with that.

Once a patient is awake, he or she is usually sent home or to his or her own room in the hospital straight away. Generally this takes place within an hour of arriving to the PACU. You will have to decide which patients are ready to be sent home based on whether they can walk and hold down fluids and whether any post surgical complications have developed.

Part of the job of a PACU nurse is also to provide emotional support and information to patients. Surgery is often a traumatic event in the life of a patient, and waking up from surgery can be scary or confusing.

It is your job to calm patients, explain to them where they are, what has happened, and also provide discharge instructions before you send a patient home.

As a PACU nurse, you end up making a lot of decisions for patients, even while you are doing so under the direction of a physician. Because there is a great deal of responsibility associated with the job, PACU nurses earn higher salaries.

Hopefully this is a role which sounds exciting to you to pursue!

Career Spotlight: Pacu Nurse

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