Specialization as a nurse is growing as the health concerns of generations diversify while technology is invented and adapted. Selecting a specialty and investing the time and energy required to become certified is an excellent career move for nurses.
Studies report that the general public knows nurses can become certified in a particular healthcare field. Furthermore, retaining a specialty certification makes you a more competitive candidate in the job market.
Today we look at two seemingly similar specialties, explore their differences, and then further explore their similarities: PCU vs. PACU. Although the acronyms are similar, these two nursing specialties are very different settings in which to find jobs. Keep reading to learn what PCU and PACU nursing jobs actually entail.
What Does PCU Mean in Healthcare?
PCU is the medical abbreviation for a Progressive Care Unit. The PCU is the unit for patient care that rises above the level of general hospital care but doesn't meet the threshold for intensive or critical care.
Learn More About Working PCU Jobs Here
Typical job duties PCU nurses perform may include the following:
1. Monitor vital signs, including blood pressure, temperature, pulse, respirations, and oxygen saturation.
2. Administer medications and treatments as ordered.
3. Document patient care activities and changes in patient condition.
4. Monitor for any changes in patient status and initiate appropriate interventions.
5. Collaborate with other healthcare team members to develop and implement individualized patient care plans.
6. Educate patients and families about their condition, treatments, and discharge planning.
7. Assist with patient transfers, positioning, and ambulation.
8. Assist with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, and toileting.
9. Assist with diagnostic tests and procedures.
10. Provide emotional support and comfort to patients and families.
11. Respond to patient call lights and address patient needs promptly.
12. Maintain a clean and safe environment for patients and staff.
13. Assist with admission, discharge, and transfer of patients.
14. Utilize critical thinking and problem-solving skills to provide quality patient care.
15. Participate in performance improvement activities.
What Does PACU Mean in Healthcare?
PACU is the medical abbreviation for a Post Anesthesia Care Unit. The PACU is a hospital or surgery center unit where a patient is taken for recovery and observation after a surgery or procedure involving anesthesia. PACU nurses may also be known as peri-anesthesia or certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs).
Learn About CRNA Jobs, Salary, and How to Become One Here
Duties one might expect to perform working PACU nursing jobs include:
1. Monitor the patient's vital signs, including pulse, blood pressure, temperature, and respiration.
2. Administer medications as prescribed by the anesthesiologist.
3. Monitor the patient for any signs of pain or discomfort.
4. Provide emotional and psychological support to the patient as they recover from the effects of anesthesia.
5. Manage intravenous lines and other medical devices.
6. Monitor the patient for any adverse reactions to the anesthesia.
7. Assess the patient's physical and emotional status.
8. Evaluate the patient's response to medications and treatments.
9. Educate the patient and family members about the recovery process.
10. Document patient care and progress.
11. Assist the patient with activities of daily living.
12. Monitor the patient for signs of infection.
13. Assist with transferring the patient from the operating room to the PACU.
14. Assist in the preparation of the patient for discharge.
15. Provide patient education regarding post-operative care and instructions.
PCU Nurses vs. PACU Nurses
- PACU jobs typically involve little interplay between nurses and their patients. PACU nurses provide care and observation for patients as they wake from anesthesia which means they focus specifically on physical indicators and assessments often. In contrast, the patients are not yet awake. They must be prepared for complications at all times, but their time with a patient is limited to until they are stable enough to be discharged from the PACU, usually a few hours.
- Alternatively, PCU nursing jobs involve thorough assessments of a patient's physical and psychological status, which often includes developing rapport with a patient's family to assess individual plans of care and discharge planning.
- The nurse-to-patient ratio in a PACU unit may vary between one to two patients per nurse, which allows PACU nurses to attend to slight changes in patient stability and rapid response in the face of complications.
- In a PCU unit, the nurse-to-patient ratio is often four patients per nurse but may swell up to six patients per nurse or be as low as three.
- The potential work settings for a PACU nurse can include hospitals, surgical centers, ambulatory care centers, or any medical facility where procedures requiring anesthesia are performed. Whereas a PCU is in a hospital that also has an ICU, where many PCU patients come from.
PCU and PACU Commonalities
- Communication and teamwork with clinicians of other disciplines. Aside from the obvious similarity in the letters of their acronyms for two completely different units and specialties, there are also a few similarities.
- Diligent observation of the patient is vital. In both the PCU and PACU, the patients in these units are physically vulnerable, and their condition must be diligently monitored for signs of stabilization, improvement, or regression and complications.
- PACU nurses must communicate clearly with the other members of the patient's healthcare team, which usually involves surgeons, physicians, nurses, and other allied healthcare clinicians. PCU nurses also routinely communicate with clinicians of different disciplines on the progress and planning of their patients, whether they are to be discharged to a skilled nursing facility or upgraded to an intensive care unit.
- Both units require nurses who can think critically and quickly analyze their patients' conditions when intervention is needed.
- Both certifications for PCU and PACU require RNs to have clinical work experience before being eligible for certification. PACU and PCU nurses both only reach that level of accreditation and employment by demonstrating a strong sense of determination both in the commitment to learning that is required for the certificate itself and the commitment to a job that can have serious consequences.
Can PCU and PACU Nurses Work Per Diem Jobs?
Yes. PACU PRN nurses and PCU PRN nurses are in demand as high nurse turnover and vacancies impact nurse-to-patient ratios across the board. These two units provide care for patients who are critically ill or physically vulnerable following a procedure, and PACU and PCU nurses must have a safe and manageable number of patients to provide care for.
Find PRN PCU and PACU RN Jobs with Nursa
Working PRN shifts provides an excellent opportunity to learn more by working in different hospitals and facilities. Additionally, PRN shifts are often posted, offering a higher than-usual hourly rate when compared to traditional staff positions. Pick up PCU PRN shifts or PACU PRN shifts at nearby facilities by joining the PRN clinician talent pool at Nursa. Download the free app, create your professional profile, verify your credentials, and browse PRN shifts near you. It's a simple strategy to bolster your nursing career as well as your bank account.