PACU nurse

All nursing professions vary on the day-to-day job responsibilities, compensation, and advancement potential. If you are interested in a nursing profession that offers a high rate of pay and travel opportunities, PACU nursing is worth your consideration.

This article provides information on what a PACU nurse does, how much they earn, and how to enter the field of PACU nursing.

What Is a PACU Nurse?

PACU stands for post-anesthesia care unit. These nurses care for patients that are recovering from being under the effects of an anesthetic while in surgery. PACU nurses are responsible for ensuring the patient’s safe and speedy recovery.

Patients who undergo anesthesia often experience post-operation symptoms that include confusion, upset stomach, and respiratory weakness. Patients may be in pain from surgery and the PACU nurse is in charge of their post-op care.

Working in a post-anesthesia care unit is high-speed and requires nurses to make decisions on the fly.

Nursing Duties in a Post-anesthesia Care Unit (PACU)

PACU nurses are in charge of monitoring a patient’s vital signs as they are awakening from anesthesia. When patients have side effects of anesthesia, like nausea or pain, the nurse caters to the patient’s needs. This can involve quelling their confusion or administering pain treatment.

The PACU nurse must collaborate with a diverse team of medical professionals. They work to ensure patient documentation and communication with other medical staff on changing circumstances. The PACU nurse also is responsible for communicating with the patient and family on the proper continuation of care post-op.

PACU Nursing Salary

Because of how important post-operation care is in a patients recovery, a PACU nurse is considered a high-level, expert nursing position. PACU nurses care for patients that are in their most vulnerable states.

PACU nursing is not an entry-level job. The requirement of technical expertise, communication prowess, and management skills dictate a higher rate of pay for a PACU nurse.

A PACU nurse averages an annual salary of about $65k. Starting positions begin around $50k. On the high end, the position pays up to around $90k.

The average hourly pay for PACU nurses works out to be around $30 to $40 an hour. With the benefits that come with many professions in the medical field, yearly compensation often tops $75k.

PACU Nursing Education Requirments

A nurse that works in a post-anesthetic care unit is highly experienced, trained, and educated in their profession. As is true of any nurse, the base requirement to be a PACU nurse is to get a nursing degree. This and other nursing certifications are crucial for the progression of your career.

You can get an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Nursing degrees must come from an accredited nursing degree program.

When you have a nursing degree, you must pass the National Council License Examination. Passing this exam will enable you to work as a registered nurse.

In most states, you must accrue at least two years of hospital nursing experience working as a registered nurse in the United States. Depending on the hospital, extra certifications may be required before you can apply to transfer to the post-anesthetic care unit.

Once you work in the unit, you can get registered to become a PACU nurse. A certification is required to work as a PACU nurse in any hospital in the United States.

PACU Nursing Certification Requirments

Once you have are a registered nurse, you can begin the certification requirements for becoming a PACU nurse. Over a period of two years, you must complete a minimum of 1,800 hours of clinical on-the-job experience in a PACU.

Every three years you must re-certify as a PACU nurse. There are two ways of doing this. You can retake the PACU exam or complete 90 contact hours.

Becoming a PACU Travel Nurse

PACU nurses often come with an extensive background of experience working in emergency rooms and intensive-care units. The range of medical situations that a nurse must deal with in an emergency room or ICU is perfect training for being a PACU nurse. PACU nurses make quick decisions and stay calm in emergency situations.

Working as a PACU nurse for at least two years enables you to confidently apply for travel PACU RN positions. The vast majority of traveling PACU nursing jobs expect candidates to have sufficient residency experience.

PACU Nursing Career Advancement Opportunities

A PACU nurse is a highly respected and sought-after position in the perianesthesia career field. And you can advance your career from there to several higher tiers of nursing. PACU nurses are well suited to advance to clinical nurse specialist or nurse anesthetist.

Eventually, your PACU nursing career primes you to move into a supervisory, managerial, or directorial nursing position. If you choose to continue your studies and earn a master’s or doctoral degree, you can become a nurse educator.

Final Thoughts

PACU nursing is a specialized position that requires you to practice sound judgment and medical expertise in time-sensitive situations. It takes years of dedication and focus to attain the position, but it offers a higher pay rate than many other nursing positions.

Is PACU nursing the career for you? Feel free to leave us a comment or question on any of the pieces of information offered in the article. Or, if you are a registered PACU nurse, leave a comment on the nature of your work and day-to-day life.

If you know someone who wants to become a PACU nurse, share this article on social media. And, subscribe to our newsletter for more information on this and other careers in nursing. Thanks for reading!

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