Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) Nursing Guide (2023)


July 18, 2022

Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) Nursing Guide (1)

Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) Nursing Guide (2) Staff

Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) Nursing Guide (3)

Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) Nursing Guide (4)Medically examined by: kathleen ganes MSN, RN, BA, CBC

A Post Anesthesia Care Unit, or PACU, nurse, cares for patients who have been placed under anesthesia. You are responsible for observing and treating a patient after surgery and making sure she wakes up safely from anesthesia. This means they need to monitor vital signs and levels of consciousness to ensure that the sedation wears off properly and patients regain consciousness.

Some patients may experience side effects from the anesthesia or have trouble regaining consciousness. Pain, nausea, shortness of breath, anxiety, and agitation are common in the recovery room and require the attention and expertise of a PACU nurse. Depending on the hospital, the PACU nurse may also be responsible for helping patients stand up, completing the discharge process, and changing the bandage.

Because PACU nurses work in the recovery room, they are often the first people patients see after major surgery. A good PACU caregiver provides comfort and reassurance to both patients and family members who may be concerned. You must also be able to patiently answer questions and convey important information about care, so a calm demeanor and strong communication skills would also suit a PACU nurse well.

PACU nurses vs operating room nurses

While both nurses are important to the overall surgical process, operating room nurses are responsible for preparing patients for surgery and caring for them during surgery. A scrub nurse also assists the surgeon and may be called in to control bleeding, insert sutures, and administer medications. A PACU nurse cares for patients after they leave the operating room.

PACU nurses versus anesthesiologists

A Certified Nurse Anesthesiology (CRNA) is a specialized and advanced area of ​​nursing. CRNAs work with physicians and anesthesiologists to administer anesthesia in a variety of settings, including hospitals, dental offices, and pain management clinics. Their responsibilities include preparation prior to anesthesia and observation and maintenance during the procedure.

All of these different nursing positions represent an essential part of the healthcare system, but it is the PACU that monitors and cares for patients coming out of sedation after surgery.

A PACU nurse is a registered nurse. According to theUS Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary for a registered nurse in 2021 is $77,600 per year or $37.31 per hour, but conditions in your area may vary.Ziprecruiter.comreports the NationalThe median salary for a PACU nurse is $97,089.

Nurses often work voluntary or mandatory overtime and are paid at an hour and a half. Additional perks include vacation time, sick leave bonuses, and other perks that can add thousands of dollars to total earnings.

(Video) Phase I in the PACU. What is Phase I?

Top 5 States That Pay PACU Nurses the Most

While the BLS does not distinguish between different types of nurse practitioners,Ziprecruiter.comreports the following annual salaries for PACU nurses.

  1. Tennessee – 91,975 $
  2. Massachusetts – 91.470 $
  3. Hawai – 91.360 $
  4. Minnesota – 90.781 $
  5. nevada – 90.555 $

The BLS anticipates employment will be registered nursesgrow 9%much faster than the average career growth rate from 2020 to 2030. PACU nurses should experience the same level of growth, making it an attractive field that offers job security and lucrative salaries.

Much of this health care growth is being driven by a large aging population. Baby boomers represent the largest generation in the United States and require more care as they age and enter retirement age.

Show me maintenance schedules

1. Become a registered nurse

Becoming a PACU nurse begins with earning your certification as an RN. There are several ways to become an RN. You can earn an associate's degree in nursing, a bachelor's of science, or follow an apprenticeship program, all of which will qualify you to sit for the National Council Licensing Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). If you pass this exam, you can work in a medical setting.

2. Gain experience

There are also different ways to specialize in PACU nursing. You must first gain experience as an RN. After a few years, you may be able to transfer to the convalescent ward and learn the specific duties of a PACU nurse. For some hospitals and facilities, work experience is enough to qualify you as a PACU.

3. Get certified

However, if you want to continue your education and ensure you get paid for your expertise, consider becoming a Certified Postal Nurse Anesthesia (CPAN). To apply for the certification exam, you must be a licensed RN and have at least 1,800 hours of clinical experience. Once you pass the certification exam, you are qualified to practice as a PACU or CPAN.


This list is based on a number of factors, including:

  • Ruf
  • NCLEX Success Rate
  • Instruction
  • Acceptance rate, if available
  • Only schools accredited by ACEN or CCNE are eligible to participate

Because PACU nurses become RNs and must gain work experience, this list also considers clinical experience and BSN scores.

panel of nurses

Our selection committee is made up of 3 qualified nurses with many years of experience and multiple qualifications:

  • Tracy Everhart, MSN, RN, SNC
  • Tyler Fausto, MSN, RN
  • Kathleen Gaines, MSN, BSN, RN, BA, CBC

There are numerous programs that prepare students to become PACU nurses and our panel of nurses have ranked them based on the factors mentioned in the methodology. Because individual nursing paths and careers take different shapes, the top 10 programs are presented in no particular order.

1.Oregon Health and Science University - Portland

Annual dues: $93,636

online: yes

Program duration: 4 years

A school focused solely on healthcare and related fields, OHSU is among the top universities in the country for nursing anesthesia. While students don't take anesthesiology courses, they do gain clinical experience at OHSU, and that could give them early exposure to PACU nursing responsibilities. OHSU offers an innovative bachelor's degree with a concentration in Nursing. This three-year program partners with local community colleges and does not technically lead to a BSN, but it does lead to an RN license. This accelerated program makes OHSU an affordable option, and graduates could end up working with some of the best anesthesiologists in the country.

2.University of Pennsylvania

Annual dues: $85,738

online: yes

Program duration: 4 years

The nursing program at the University of Pennsylvania is among the best in the country. For future PACU nurses, the BSN's emphasis on clinical practice and mentoring could help students gain early exposure to the field. This excellent four-year course also allows students to work in a team and gives them the opportunity to study or intern abroad. After graduation, nurses work in some of the best hospitals in the country.

(Video) Postoperative Nursing Care | NCLEX RN Review

3.University of Michigan

Annual In-State Tuition: $16,404 Annual Out-of-State Tuition: $55,002

online: yes

Program duration: 4 years

While many people recognize the University of Michigan for its athletics, nurses and medical professionals may be more aware of its world-class hospital and facilities. Undergraduate students enjoy clinical training at the prestigious hospital and learn about a variety of fields. U-M also has an extensive alumni network of more than 13,000 nurses, many of whom could help connect graduates with nursing opportunities at PACU. For Michigan residents, U-M is also available at an incredibly affordable price.

4.University of Minnesota

Annual In-State Tuition: $16,108 Annual Out-of-State Tuition: $35,348

online: yes

Program duration: 4 years

The BSN program at the University of Minnesota, located in the Twin Cities, has two entry pathways: direct admission from high school or transfer, including internal transfers. Transfer students study at the Rochester campus, which is also home to one of the best hospitals in the world: the Mayo Clinic. To follow this route, applicants must first complete one year of foundation courses, followed by a three-year nursing program. Students complete clinical studies in the last two years of the program and gain valuable experience at Mayo Clinic.

5.Universidad Johns Hopkins

Annual dues: $72,017

online: yes

Program duration: 2.5 years

In addition to being home to one of the best hospitals in the country and top-tier medical programs, Johns Hopkins University also has a unique nursing program for new nurses: a direct entry MSN. The Direct Entry MSN is designed for students with a bachelor's degree in a non-nursing field and meets NCLEX admission requirements. The only difference between John Hopkins' MSN programs and BSN programs at other schools is that the nurses have a master's degree from one of the best universities in the world. MSN helps graduates compete with BSN nurses for some of the biggest positions, including PACU nurse positions.

6.washington university

Annual In-State Tuition: $12,078 Annual Out-of-State Tuition: $39,906

online: yes

Program duration: 4 years

The BSN at the University of Washington is a two-year program, although students must first complete two years of foundation courses. What sets the UW nursing program apart is the more than 1,000 hours of clinical experience required at locations across the state, including outstanding facilities like the UW Medical Center and Seattle Children's Hospital. This breadth of options allows prospective RNs to work closely with different types of patients. Graduates often find work in the area, and nurses can begin gaining experience as PACU nurses soon after.

7.University of California, Los Angeles

Annual In-State Tuition: $37,448 Annual Out-of-State Tuition: $68,474

online: yes

Program duration: 4 years

Another excellent school with its own world-class hospital, the University of California, Los Angeles has one of the best BSN programs in the country. The BSN is great for nurses who want to continue their education or pursue a specialty (including PACU nursing). It combines clinical learning and theory, and offers a more academic education than nurses can find elsewhere. UCLA uses a trimester system, and students begin nursing courses in their first year. of wisconsin

Annual In-State Tuition: $10,796.40 Annual Out-of-State Tuition: $39,427.44

(Video) Laryngospasms, lets talk complications in the PACU!

online: yes

Program duration: 4 years

With many excellent hospitals in the area, the University of Wisconsin allows nursing students to gain clinical experience on multiple campuses. The results of the program have been extremely positive with 93% of recent graduates passing the NCLEX on the first try. UW-Madison uses a two-year nursing program, which means students qualify in the first two years but do not gain clinical experience until the second year. However, students earn 720 clinical hours during those two years, and graduates find work in a variety of roles across the country.

9.University of Maryland

Annual In-State Tuition: $9,695 Annual Out-of-State Tuition: $37,931

online: yes

Program duration: 4 years

The University of Maryland, based in Baltimore, has an unbeatable location near some of the nation's largest cities. The nursing program in Maryland more than adequately prepares students for their future careers, even though it is only a two-year program (students complete two years of foundation courses first). As with other schools, Maryland's outstanding academics and excellent clinical partners help differentiate and prepare RNs for the PACU experience.

10University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

In-State Program Fee: $32,255 Out-of-State Program Fee: $91,120

online: yes

Program duration: 4 years

A public ivy in Chapel Hill, the University of North Carolina prepares RNs for a variety of careers, with graduates working in nearly every area of ​​healthcare (including PACU nursing). Nursing students thrive in part because they apply UNC knowledge from day one, so students must gain experience in their first semester. However, students must prepare for a rigorous program as UNC suggests that students complete several courses over the summer.

As with any nursing position, working as a PACU nurse means you'll be working in a fast-paced environment where you must make important decisions quickly to ensure the best patient care. A PACU nurse must carefully monitor patients as they come out of sedation and take immediate action if complications arise.

This is a unique position as patients may not be able to articulate their discomfort. It is the responsibility of the UCPA to observe and act.

A large part of a PACU nurse's job is to comfort patients who have just had surgery. They may be scared and confused when they wake up, and anesthesia can make feelings worse in some patients. A successful PACU nurse will be able to handle these situations with care and compassion, reassuring the patient and allowing them to continue their recovery.

Finally, a PACU nurse also serves as a focal point for patients and their loved ones. Must be able to clearly communicate care instructions and answer any questions. The ability to work with the public and communicate effectively during stressful times is truly a skill and an important part of being a PACU nurse.

PACU nurses do not necessarily have specific requirements beyond state-mandated continuing education. However, CPAN recertification does.

All PACU nurses must have an RN license.

The continuing education requirements for the license are different for each state. All license and certification renewals also have monetary fees and other state-specific criteria associated with them.

Examples of continuing education requirements for RNs are as follows:

  • California: 30 CEUs every two years
  • Florida: 24 CEUs every two years
  • Hawaii: 30 CEUs every two years
  • Oklahoma - 24 CEUs every two years
  • Pennsylvania: 30 CEUs every two years

Some states do not require CEUs to maintain an RN license. Examples are Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, and Indiana. Several states also require HIV/AIDS education like Florida or mandatory child abuse like Pennsylvania. It is important for nurses to check with their state's RN certifying agency for exact CEU requirements. A full list can be foundHere.

The American Board for Perianescence Nursing Certification (ABPANC) is the primary body that oversees the CPAN certification process. Remember, you must complete 1,800 hours of direct clinical experience over a two-year period before you can apply for certification. To earn your certification, you must pass a computer-based exam.

(Video) PACU Nursing: What You Need to Know | Ep. 09 | Full Episode

CPAN certification must be renewed every three years. You can retake the exam or complete 90 contact hours. The number of hours that must be divided between direct and indirect contact depends on how many times you have been recertified. Outside of the recertification process, there are no other continuing education requirements for PACU nurses.

Show me maintenance schedules

While you don't necessarily need a specific certification to become a PACU nurse, becoming certified is a great way to advance your career and increase your earning potential. Once you have worked as a registered nurse for at least two years and have accumulated clinical hours, you can become a Certified Post Anesthesia Nurse (CPAN) and/or Certified Peranesthetic Ambulatory Nurse (CAPA). Both certifications allow you to oversee patient care before and after the operation.

To become certified, you must pass a comprehensive exam that tests your knowledge of patients' psychological needs, the physical effects of anesthesia, potential behavioral changes, and other complications that may put the patient at risk.

As an RN, there are many different career and higher education opportunities that you can pursue. For PACU nurses who want to continue working with patients and anesthesia, you canBecome a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA). These highly specialized nurses perform many of the same functions as anesthesiologists. For those with a passion for patients and healthcare, working as a PACU and/or CRNA nurse can offer a fulfilling and rewarding career with opportunities for advancement.

Nursing is part of a tight-knit community with a variety of professional associations that offer support and help you stay abreast of changes and opportunities in the profession, including national conferences. For those exploring different nursing professions, these associations can also be useful sources of information. Professional organizations for PACU nurses include:

According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics 3 doctors out of 3.1 million nurses or 10 RNs. It may be hard to imagine that there would be enough nursing positions to safely accommodate a large workforce, but nurses are an essential part of our health care system and many facilities are experiencing nursing shortages.

With the right training, you can secure a lucrative and fulfilling position that also offers opportunities for career development and advancement. MoneyYou can find nursing jobs in your area on our job board.

If you're ready to move, there are certain states that stand out as great places to work as a PACU:

California:While home prices can be high, California is the only state to mandate patient-to-staff ratios and other legal protections for nurses. This way, you can give your patients the best possible care and avoid burnout.

Texas: There are other states that offer higher salaries, but with a low cost of living, your money goes further and there are many reputable VA colleges and hospitals to gain valuable experience.

Vermont:If your own quality of life is important to you, Vermont offers an attractive combination of outdoor activities, healthy living, and fair wages. It also provides universal healthcare to residents.

As our population continues to grow and age, the demand for highly-skilled nurses will continue to increase as thousands of new positions become available each year.

If you find joy and satisfaction in helping others and are tolerant of medical situations, PACU Nursing can offer you a truly rewarding career along with a lucrative salary.

  • What does a PACU nurse do?

    • PACU nurses are responsible for all aspects of patient care after surgery. This includes monitoring vital signs, administering pain and nausea medications, updating and educating the family, and transfer to the inpatient unit or discharge, depending on the acute status of the patient. PACU nurses are also responsible for monitoring the surgical site immediately after surgery.
  • What makes a good PACU nurse?

    • PACU nurses must be well versed in the surgical care of patients. They must have strong nursing skills and the ability to make independent decisions related to patient care. PACU nurses often receive a prescription kit that includes medications for different levels of pain. It is based on the assessment of the caregiver to determine which drug is the most appropriate for the patient. PACU nurses must also be compassionate, good educators, and have the ability to work in a team environment.
  • How many patients does a PACU nurse have?

    • PACU nurses generally have 1-2 patients at a time. As soon as a patient is transferred to a ward or discharged, the nurse takes over another patient from the operating room.
  • What does PACU mean in a hospital?

    • The PACU is a post-anesthesia room. This unit is used for the post-operative care of patients who do NOT require an intensive care unit.
  • Is PACU care considered critical care?

    • PACU is considered critical care and most units require critical care experience prior to employment. Some units are hired without this experience, but this is rare.
nurse $70.000 - $90.000 Associated singles LITTLE bedside table


1. Post-Anesthesia Care – Anesthesiology | Lecturio
(Lecturio Medical)
2. Post-Anesthesia Recovery - (Dr. Fain)
(University of Kentucky Department of Anesthesiology)
3. General Anesthesia Part 2, Emergence and Recovery
(PACU Nursing Minutes)
4. General Anesthesia Part 1, Induction & Maintenance.
(PACU Nursing Minutes)
5. @rahat2021 | Post Anesthesia Care Unit/Recovery after surgery/rahat qureshi
(Aqorn Learning)
6. Post Op care 1
(Traci Hansen)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Horacio Brakus JD

Last Updated: 02/26/2023

Views: 6504

Rating: 4 / 5 (51 voted)

Reviews: 82% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Horacio Brakus JD

Birthday: 1999-08-21

Address: Apt. 524 43384 Minnie Prairie, South Edda, MA 62804

Phone: +5931039998219

Job: Sales Strategist

Hobby: Sculling, Kitesurfing, Orienteering, Painting, Computer programming, Creative writing, Scuba diving

Introduction: My name is Horacio Brakus JD, I am a lively, splendid, jolly, vivacious, vast, cheerful, agreeable person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.