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Healthcare Jobs

PACU is a highly sought-after nursing specialty. Therefore, registered nurses (RNs) who work in this field of nursing are often highly compensated. Learn more about this specialty and how to find PRN PACU jobs near you.

What is the PACU?

A post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) nurse is a highly trained critical care nurse who works in a hospital’s post-anesthesia care unit. During recovery from anesthesia, they care for patients who just underwent surgery. PACU nurses play a vital role in ensuring patients recover quickly and safely, even though most patients don’t realize they’re providing them with post-op care. 

A PACU works in various settings including hospitals, surgical centers, or ambulatory care centers. Patients who wake up from anesthesia are under their supervision. As well as monitoring a patient’s vital signs, they check for any side effects associated with anesthesia. Communication and collaboration are essential skills for nurses in the PACU. Throughout the patient’s recovery, they keep the physician, other nurses, and medical staff informed of any changes. Additionally, they are responsible for communicating with the patient’s family about proper post-op care, such as when to take medication and what to do if pain occurs. 

What Are PACUs And How to Find PACU Jobs

A post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) nurse is a highly trained critical care nurse who works in a hospital’s post-anesthesia care unit. During recovery from anesthesia, they care for patients who have just undergone surgery. PACU nurses play a vital role in ensuring patients recover quickly and safely, even though most patients don’t realize they’re providing them with post-op care. 

Where Do PACU Nurses Work?

Patients who wake up from anesthesia are under their care. PACU nurses usually work in hospitals and surgical or ambulatory care centers. As well as monitoring a patient’s vital signs, they check for any side effects associated with anesthesia. Patients who experience adverse effects from anesthesia (like nausea or pain) will be treated with pain medication or fluids by a registered nurse in the PACU. 

In most post-anesthesia care units, nurses care for patients of all ages, from babies to the elderly. Within a short period, they tend to one or two patients simultaneously, providing expert care before transferring them to their next destination. 

What Skills Make a Good PACU Nurse

Communication and collaboration are essential skills for nurses in the PACU. Throughout the patient’s recovery, they keep the physician, other nurses, and medical staff informed of any changes. Additionally, they are responsible for communicating with the patient’s family about proper post-op care, such as when to take medication and what to do if pain occurs. 

What Is It Like Working in The Post-Anesthesia Unit?

PACU nurses care for patients waking up from anesthesia. these units are normally located in hospitals. PACU nurses work diligently to reduce the turnaround time for patients. You want to ensure they’re stable after receiving anesthesia before they can be transferred to an intensive care unit (ICU) or other recovery areas. PACU nurses may be in charge of the following responsibilities:

  • Assessing patient’s level of consciousness
  • Checking patient’s vital signs
  • Watching for signs of post-anesthesia reactions

A Day In The Life of a PACU Nurse

As a PACU nurse, you’ll work with patients from all walks of life. You may be responsible for one or more patients depending on nurse-to-patient ratios where you work. During a typical day in the life of a PACU nurse, you can expect to engage in the following dues:

  • Administering pain treatments for patients having adverse side effects from anesthesia
  • Coordinating with your patients and their caregivers about post-op care
  • Educating patients and their caregivers about which medications to take and how often to take them
  • Keeping dressings and bandages clean and dry
  • Updating charts, medical records, and patient files

What Are the Requirements To Become a PACU Nurse?

ADN and BSN degrees are the two minimum healthcare educational requirements that would be needed in addition to the nurse passing the state exam in the respective state in which they work. Students often complete an ADN program in two to four years, while a BSN program takes four to six years. 

Employers often prefer BSN, but with the nursing shortage, ADN nurses have nearly as many available local travel and PRN job opportunities. However, in New York, nurses must have a BSN within ten years of becoming licensed. The RN-to-BSN program allows nurses with an ADN to complete their education while working for nine to 24 months. An accelerated BSN program is available to candidates with a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing. NCLEX was developed by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). Each state requires candidates to take the exam to become registered nurses. Nursing students can register online for the exam, find help studying with tutors or online help guides and get their results on the NCLEX website. After passing the NCLEX and obtaining a state license, nurses need several years of experience in medical surgical nursing and critical care to prepare to work in PACU. Most PACUs require at least two years of critical care experience. Nurses validate their knowledge and expertise through certification and continuing education credits. Nurses may be Certified Post-Anesthesia Nurse (CPAN) or Certified Ambulatory Perianesthesia Nurse (CAPA). Both certificates are for nurses working with sedated patients in hospitals or ambulatory care settings. CPAN certification is relevant for nurses caring for patients in Phase I post-anesthesia. CAPA is suitable for nurses working with pre-anesthesia, day-of surgery, and post-anesthesia Phase II. The American Board of Perianesthesia Nursing Certification, Inc. offers certification.

What’s The Average PACU Nurse Salary?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), PACU nurses make a national average of $50 an hour. This is just the median and does not reflect the needs for PRN shifts and the prices hospitals pay per diem shifts. This average is 22% higher than the national average for hourly salaries. The highest-paying cities for PACU nurses are Brooklyn, New York, NY, and Chicago, Il. PACU nurses can make over $200 an hour on the high end of the spectrum, depending on experience and qualifications. The BLS also predicts that the future job growth in this sector of nursing will rise by 52% percent by the year 2030, which is excellent news for job security for the PACU nurses working in this specialized field of healthcare. 

How to Find PRN PACU Nurses or PRN Jobs Near You

The best place and application for PACU nurses to find PRN assignments is by downloading Nursa. Nursa is a user-friendly application that works on both iPhone and Android devices. Once the download is installed, a profile must be filled out with the current user information on credentials, licenses, certifications, and background checks. Once the profile is approved, PACU nurses can look for per diem shifts all over the country. And again, most PRN shifts pay more than permanent employees, allowing for more freedom to explore, pick the changes desired, and work with different people all over the country. Give Nursa a try to see the privilege of working on your schedule.

Written by Miranda Booher, RN

SEO Content Marketing Administrator Miranda has been a registered nurse since 2007 and has a healthy background in travel nursing, healthcare IT, and digital marketing. She brings an interesting combination of stellar SEO content management and copywriting skills and first-hand nursing experience to the table. Miranda understands the industry and has an impeccable ability to write about it. And speaking of travel - Miranda currently lives in Bolivia, though she maintains an active Registered Nurse license in the state of Ohio and stays current on the latest healthcare news through her writing. When she is not creating killer copy, or serving others through her work as a nurse, you can find her spending time with her family traveling in the Andes Mountains.

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