Find Local or Online
Nursing Programs

Select a program:

Select your state:

Follow NurseGroups on Pinterest

How to Be a PACU RN

A PACU (post-anesthesia care unit) RN helps to care for patients as they come out of surgical anesthesia. Anesthesia is an integral part of modern medicine. However, it comes with certain risks. When the patient comes out of surgery, the specially trained PACU RN monitors the patient and handles situations as they may develop. They are the ones responsible for monitoring the vital signs and alerting doctors if there are problems with a patient. They assess patients and make sure they are ready to leave the PACU. In some hospitals, they also prepare patients before surgery by inserting IV lines and monitoring vital signs.

In most cases, hospitals require a PACU RN to hold a bachelor's degree in nursing. Some hospitals take RNs with an ADN or diplomas also. Many hospitals also require a nurse with several years of experience providing care in various roles. This prepares the nurse to handle situations that can arise in the post-anesthesia care unit. The advanced degree programs provide the training necessary. The experience gives the nurse the skills necessary to monitor patients, detect problems, and handle them quickly and effectively.

Experience in critical care is essential for anyone who wants to be a PACU RN. In order to handle the post-operative unit, a nurse needs skills in airway management, emergency ventilation, code care, arterial line monitoring, and anesthesia management. They need to handle problems with airway blockage, cardiac issues, core temperature abnormalities, and pain management. These nurses need to know how to work in a safe, aseptic environment handling multiple patients. They need experience handling patients from all age groups.

Certain certifications are essential for a PACU RN. The American Board of Perianesthesia Nursing Certification offers two certifications for this discipline: the Certified Post Anesthesia Nurse (CPAN) and the Certified Ambulatory Perianesthesia Nurse (CAPA). Nurses have to have an RN license, pass an exam, and have PACU experience. Many PACU nurses also hold certifications in advanced cardiac life support, pediatric life support, and basic cardiac life support.

The PACU RN plays an integral role in the post operative environment. They work with the anesthesiologists, nurse anesthetists, and surgeons to transition patients from surgery. They need to handle complications such as respiratory arrest, malignant hyperthermia, pulmonary edema, and laryngospasm, among others. In many cases, the patients go home after surgery. In some cases, they transfer to another part of the hospital. In all cases, the PACU RN has done their job right.