The Job Description of a Recovery Room Nurse

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The recovery room nurse is the primary patient advocate following surgery. This nurse monitors patients when they are still under the effects of anesthesia, and the area they work in is called the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU). Recovery room nurses must be registered nurses who have been extensively trained in critical care.

Initial Care

A recovery room nurse provides constant care to patients immediately following surgery. This may be a time frame anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours until the patient is stable enough either to be transported to his hospital room or discharged from the facility. The recovery room nurse connects the patient to devices such as cardiac monitoring equipment, and to intravenous therapy for fluids and pain medication.

Patient Monitoring

Patient observation is an essential role of the recovery room nurse. On a regular basis, she takes the patient's vital signs, such as blood pressure, pulse and temperature. The nurse ensures that the patient is breathing properly and administers oxygen when needed. Recovery room nurses must react rapidly to signs of negative physical changes, calling for assistance and beginning cardiopulmonary resuscitation if necessary.

Pain Intervention

Pain intervention is another important part of the job description of a recovery room nurse. The nurse observes patients to assess their comfort level, asks patients about their level of pain, and administers pain medications that have been prescribed. He notifies the physician if more pain medication appears to be needed. The nurse must be able to use patient-controlled pumps, and intravenous and epidural infusions.

Additional Duties

Recovery room nurses make complete notes on the charts, and communicate information in verbal or written form to other PACU nurses and to physicians. They complete any forms required by the facility. Some recovery room nurses supervise supplemental staff members.


Recovery room nurses can work any type of shift, days or nights, and also can work on a per diem, or as needed, basis. Traveling nurse organizations recruit for recovery room nurses as well. They must be able to communicate effectively with patients of different ages and backgrounds. Recovery room nurses must have excellent observation skills, be able to think critically, and be able to make quick and effective decisions.