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A PACU Nurse's Job Description

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A PACU, or postoperative care unit, nurse is responsible for caring for patients after surgery. A PACU nurse should be very familiar with anesthesiology and be committed to the care of others. She holds a demanding job with a lot of responsibility.


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Upon a patient’s arrival in the PACU, the nurse is informed on the patient's post-surgery condition and any complications that may have arisen. The PACU nurse is responsible for assessing the patient: checking vital signs, pain, the site of incision, temperature and respiration. The PACU nurse should have a thorough knowledge of pain medication and be able to use his own judgment of a patient’s pain. Duties of a PACU nurse include changing of dressings, turning a patient, breathing exercises and pain management.


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Even though a PACU nurse answers to a physician, the nurse should be able to make judgments and assessments when it comes to pain, vomiting or trouble breathing. A PACU nurse is responsible for knowing advanced cardiac life support and should be able to know what to do if a patient has cardiac issues. The PACU nurse is also responsible for rousing a patient from anesthesia after the patient has been admitted into the PACU. The patient is either discharged to go home after the PACU nurse has assessed his recovery status, the patient is kept in the PACU under the supervision of the nurse, or the patient is allowed to go to a hospital room.

Education Required

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To become hired as a PACU nurse, a nurse must have a degree from an accredited school of nursing and must be licensed as a registered nurse. The nurse should also be certified in BCLS and ACLS--basic and advanced cardiac life support.

Experience Required

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Most hospitals ask that a prospective PACU nurse have experience in post-anesthesia care and surgical nursing. The PACU nurse must have knowledge of pain medications, anesthesia and life support. He must be aware of surgical procedures and aseptic technique.

Other Qualifications

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A PACU nurse must be a quick thinker, able to stay calm in emergencies and be professional, as she may oversee other nurses. The PACU nurse must be organized and be able to prioritize issues with patients. A PACU nurse should be cheerful and personable.


Jenny Molberg is a Texas native who has worked as an assistant editor at a literary magazine and her poems have been published in several nationally recognized journals. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing.