Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) Travel Nursing

A post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) travel nurse is a licensed, registered travel nurse (RN) who works in the PACU at a hospital or surgical care center. Patients are taken to the PACU after a surgical procedure involving anesthesia. There they are placed under a PACU nurse’s care while they recover from the surgery and anesthesia, which may take from about 40 minutes to several hours. During this time the PACU travel nurse performs frequent checks on vital signs, breathing, bandage care, surgical wounds and cognitive ability, gauging the patient’s recovery from the surgery and anesthesia.

Since patients may be entering the PACU following nearly any type of surgery, PACU travel nurses must gather as much information as possible about the patient’s condition from the surgeons in order to prevent complications such as infection, allergic reactions, or conflicting medications.  Many patients will be disoriented or experiencing reactions to the anesthesia, such as vomiting or nausea. Once the patient has recovered, the PACU travel nurse educates them on post-operative care, such as caring for bandages, handling medications, and getting enough rest. The PACU nurse will also make arrangements if the patient is to be transferred to another hospital department.

A PACU is not necessarily the same thing as the post-operative care unit, which may be another department in a hospital or surgical center. While the PACU houses patients who have just left surgery and are in need of immediate short-term care as they recover from the anesthesia, the post-operative or post-surgical care unit is typically for patients needing slightly longer-term recovery care – usually a few days for advanced wound care.

Important Skills for PACU Travel Nurses

  • Knowledge of medications and their reactions
  • Good bedside manner
  • Knowledge of wound care and bandage care
  • Quick decision-making abilities
  • Strong communication skills

Back to Travel Nurse Specialties