How do I Become a PACU Nurse?

Elva K.

Post anesthesia care unit (PACU) nurses provide care for patients just after the patients have come out of surgery. PACU nurses might do tasks such as monitoring patients' breathing, giving medications, taking blood pressure, putting bandages on the patient, or keeping records of the patients' progress. If you aspire to become a PACU nurse, you will generally need a college degree.

Some PACU nurses begin their career working in a hospital emergency room.
Some PACU nurses begin their career working in a hospital emergency room.

You could get an associate's degree in nursing to become a registered nurse (RN). Granted, if you hope to become a PACU nurse, it might be more helpful for your long-term career aspirations if you get a bachelor's degree in nursing; this degree will typically make you eligible for nursing jobs with more responsibility and a higher rate of pay. Also, the bachelor's degree in nursing demonstrates to prospective employers that you are serious about pursuing nursing long term.

A PACU nurse may keep records of a patient's progress after surgery.
A PACU nurse may keep records of a patient's progress after surgery.

The nursing degree will usually include courses such as anatomy, physiology, biology, chemistry, nutrition, nursing fundamentals, and physical assessment. Also, there will be supervised practicum experiences in addition to the academic coursework. The practicum experience is considered an essential part of nurse training because the practicum experiences enable you to gain experience in doing the types of activities that nurses do.

PACU nurses perform tasks like monitoring patients' breathing after they have been anesthetized and undergone surgery.
PACU nurses perform tasks like monitoring patients' breathing after they have been anesthetized and undergone surgery.

You will typically apply for your first job as a nurse during the final semester of college. Most likely you will be able to find a nursing job via contacting the career services department, doing online job search, or asking nursing professors if they are aware of any open nursing positions. If you aspire to become a PACU nurse, keep in mind that your first job will not necessarily involve PACU nursing. In fact, your first job may be as a critical care unit (CCU) nurse or an emergency room (ER) nurse. Of course, if you wish to become a PACU nurse, being a CCU or ER nurse will give you the necessary experience to be able to eventually apply for a PACU nurse job.

Patients in the PACU should have their breathing, blood pressure and other vital statistics monitored.
Patients in the PACU should have their breathing, blood pressure and other vital statistics monitored.

It helps to have good listening skills if your goal is to become a PACU nurse. After surgery, the physician will typically explain the patient's status. At that time, it is essential that a PACU nurse listen and understand everything the physician says so that the best possible post-surgery treatment can be provided.

A PACU nurse may be tasked with caring for patients after open heart or other serious surgeries.
A PACU nurse may be tasked with caring for patients after open heart or other serious surgeries.

After working for a few years as a PACU nurse in a hospital, a PACU nurse has a number of career options. For instance, a PACU nurse could go back to school to get a master's degree in nursing so he or she could qualify to become a nurse supervisor or other health care administrator in a hospital setting. Or, a PACU nurse could pursue a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in nursing to qualify to teach nursing classes at a college. By contrast, a PACU nurse could choose to go to work for a staffing agency as someone who specializes in recruiting PACU nurses for hospital jobs.

A PACU nurse must be able to interpret and act on data from a number of medical monitoring devices.
A PACU nurse must be able to interpret and act on data from a number of medical monitoring devices.
A PACU nurse should have good listening skills.
A PACU nurse should have good listening skills.

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