How to Become a Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) Nurse

Post-anesthesia care unit nurses (PACU) are also called peri-anesthesia nurses. Most commonly, they are known as recovery room nurses because they care for post-surgery patients who are regaining consciousness from anesthesia.

Should I Become a Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) Nurse?

The PACU nurses stay on their toes and observe patients’ condition post-surgery to see if everything is alright. They constantly monitor all post-operation vital signs and ensure that patients wake up from anesthesia as safely as possible. The PACU nurses work typically in a high-pressure and fast-paced environment. They are supposed to make quick decisions depending upon the condition of the patient.

Education Required At least a master’s degree
Major Requirement Nursing (may specialize)
License/Certification Getting a nursing license is mandatory
Experience/Training Gain 1 year work experience in the desired specialization at least
Key Skills Emotional Stability, Compassionate, Physical Stamina, Detail-oriented; Critical-thinking, Problem-solving, Communication, Observational Skills etc.
Annual Mean Salary (2019) – National $181,040 (Nurse Anesthetists)
Job Outlook (2018-2028) 26% (Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2019)

Career Outlook

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 43,570 Nurse Anesthetists working all over the US in 2019. In addition to that, the Outpatient Care Centers was listed as the highest paying industry for this career with an annual mean salary of $224,630 in 2019.

Steps to Becoming a Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) Nurse

If you are enthusiastic about helping post-surgery patients and want to focus all your energy on taking care of such patients, then this career is for you. Here is a simple guide to help you begin.

1. Get a Nursing Degree The first step on this journey is completing a 4-year bachelor’s degree in Nursing (BSN). However, the minimum acceptable degree for PACU Nurses is a master’s degree in Nursing (MSN) which combines field experience in a particular area of specialization with coursework.

2. Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam:All candidates in the nursing field must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to become eligible and apply for licensure.

3. Obtain Field Experience as a Registered Nurse :It is essential that PACU nurses become licensed as registered nurses and gain at least 1 year of field experience before they can specialize as a PACU nurse. The requirements of licensure vary for each state.

4. Acquire Experience in the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit:Once you acquire enough experience as an RN and have gained a master’s or a doctoral degree to advance your career, you can work as a PACU nurse and specialize your skillset.

5. Become a Certified Post-Anesthesia Nurse :Some hospitals require nurses to get certified as post-anesthesia nurses while others provide on the job training. Post-anesthesia Nursing Certification can be obtained through the American Board of Peri-Anesthesia Nursing by taking an exam.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) Nurse?

The duration varies from one person to another, depending on the education and work related decisions you take. However, it may take around 8 to 10 years for you to become a PACU Nurse.

What Are the Requirements of Becoming a Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) Nurse?

To work as a PACU Nurse, you must:

  • Possess an accredited master’s degree in nursing (minimum)
  • Have cleared the NCLEX-RN exam
  • Be a registered nurse (RN)
  • Be a certified PACU Nurse
  • Gain field experience of a few years as a RN and a PACU Nurse

How Much Can I Make as a Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) Nurse?

According to that data reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Nurse Anesthetists working in the US earned an annual mean salary of $181,040 in 2019. In addition to that, Wyoming was named the highest paying state ($243,310) for this profession.

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