Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) Nurse: Career Guide

Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) Nurses are one of many Registered Nurses that work in the medical field. These special RNs take care of patients who have gone under anesthesia, providing postoperative care and checking their vitals to ensure they wake up safely.

Also called Recovery Room Nurses, or Perianesthesia Nurses, PACU Nurses are generally the first person a patient will see after waking up once the anesthesia wears off. Some patients can experience the side effects brought on by anesthesia. Side effects can include difficulties with consciousness, nausea, discomfort, breathing complications, or even fear or shock. All of these effects require the expertise and focus of a PACU Nurse.

PACU Nurses also aid in ensuring the recovery room is a comforting environment. Not only are they the first person that patients may see, but they might also be the first RN that family members interact with after the patient is in recovery. Often, they calmly answer questions related to care or provide assurance to patients and family members.

If you are considering pursuing a PACU nurse job, continue reading this brief guide to see how you can find a career in this role. 

IV drip
Photo by Olga Kononenko on Unsplash

Education Requirements for PACU Nurses

Post-Anesthesia Care Unit Nurses are Registered Nurses. Therefore, to start the process of becoming a PACU Nurse, you will need to have the necessary degree(s) to become an RN. There are Associate, Bachelors, and Masters level RN degree programs that will help you get started on the right track. 

Note that Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programs, along with relevant hours of work experience, will improve the rank of the position you can obtain. Try to find courses or electives that focus on anesthesia care or similar topics; this will help with the transition to becoming a PACU Nurse.

Are you looking to further your education? Check out the following colleges and their degree programs.

Associates Nursing Programs in Phoenix, Arizona

Bachelors Nursing Programs in Phoenix, Arizona

Masters Nursing Programs in Phoenix, Arizona

After obtaining your degree, you will need to apply, take, and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN)  from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing to become an official RN. Once you become an RN, you will need to get some work experience under your belt to apply for certification that is PACU nurse focused. If you already have work experience as an RN, you can start applying to the relevant certifications. 

Per the American Board of Perianesthesia Nursing Certification, once you have 1,200 hours of direct clinical experience within two years prior to applying for the Certified Post Anesthesia Nurse (CPAN) or the Certified Ambulatory Perianesthesia Nurse (CAPA), then you are eligible to take the exams for these relevant certifications.

Based on the experience you received during your 1,200 hours, you might have to choose between the two certifications, or you may be eligible to take both. For more information on the CAPA or CPAN certifications, please check the American Board of Perianesthesia Nursing Certification website. 

For additional education and licenses, refer to the following associations:

Woman in hospital bed
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Salary and Job Outlook for PACU Nurse Jobs

Generally speaking, PACU Nurse positions are not entry-level. As mentioned before, you will need to start as an RN, gain experience, and apply for certifications to achieve this role. Therefore, a majority of PACU Nurses come with years of experience, education, and certifications; and the starting salaries of PACU nurses reflect that. At Desert Medical Careers, we typically can place PACU nurses in positions that pay within the $38-45/hour range. However, the average salary for a PACU nurse is $62,126 in Phoenix, Arizona, with the lowest salary being around $45,000 and the highest salary of around $78,000. 

Quick Facts: Registered Nurses

The Bureau of Labor Statistics details that Registered Nurses are expected to see a 12% growth in job opportunities, including more than 300,000 jobs being added to the market. Since PACU nurses are RNs, this trend is expected to stretch into this career field. If you are considering advancing your Registered Nurse career to a PACU role, this positive growth trend is a great opportunity. 

How to Get a Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) Nursing Position?

Desert Medical Careers is a top medical job placement firm in Phoenix, Arizona. We have connections with facilities built from years of placing individuals in medical roles within the Phoenix area. With our trusted network, individuals that work with us end up getting placed swiftly and in better facilities, compared to doing things on their own.

At Desert Medical Careers, we’ll match you with a dedicated team member to review your resume, ensuring it matches the needs of interested medical facilities. Likewise, we provide interviewing best-practices based on our experience placing people in PACU Nurse jobs. All of this is free for the person seeking a Post-Anesthesia Care Unit position.

If you are looking to be placed in a PACU Nurse job and would like to discuss your next steps for landing this role in a medical facility, contact Desert Medical Careers at (602) 468-6300.

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