Perianesthesia Nurses Use a Robust Skill Set

Perianesthesia Nurses Use a Robust Skill Set

A perianesthesia nurse is a constant and steadying presence for anyone undergoing a medical procedure. This week’s PeriAnesthesia Nurses Week (February 1-7) acknowledges the nurses in this role and the work they do with patients in varied settings and under changing conditions.

Perianesthesia nurses are with patients throughout their entire procedure, although many patients don’t realize this. If you’re thinking about this career path, many nurses say they enjoy being a continuous presence for patients and enjoy being an advocate for them when they are not able to do that for themselves because they are sedated.

But nurses in this role also enjoy the close interaction with their patients. They gain satisfaction from being able to make their patients comfortable and less nervous about what’s happening. Perianesthesia nurses may not see their patients for a long time—the pre- and post-op when patients are most aware can be fast moving—but the impression they make is important. This career offers many choices where you can practice including hospitals, ambulatory care and day surgical sites, as well as pain management clinics.

According to the American Society of PeriAnesthesia Nurses, perianesthesia nurses are committed to patient safety and so they are always assessing a patient to watch for any changes at all. They are also responsible for helping the patient wake up from sedation and so their pre-op routine is often an information gathering process. During their pre-op interaction, they are gaining medical history but they engage patients in casual conversations about things that may seem random but are actually very precise. During this pre-op, nurses are finding out about the patient and learning about topics they will be able to mention in post-op to help the patients gradually awaken and be soothed by a familiar topic.

What might perianesthesia nurses ask? They can talk about anything from the patient’s career to their pets. They ask about family members, hobbies, travel, movies, books, or favorite routines. Over time, this becomes a highly developed skill in perianesthesia nurses’ toolbox as each nurse is able to find a conversational style that checks all the boxes of information they need to gather. They learn the subtle approaches for people who are especially quiet or those who are agitated or those who may be scared.

When the patient is sedated, the perianesthesia nurse is a constant presence and watches and monitors both the patient and all the equipment for any signs of change or potential trouble. As perianesthesia nurses work, their skill set during procedures is also fine tuned. They are watching for all the steady vital signs on monitors, but they also scan the patient to look for any even less obvious signs or signals. They are watching skin tone and feel, listening to the breathing patterns, and noticing muscle movements or changes.

Then the nurse and patient will be in post-op as sedation wears off and the patient wakes up. The unpredictable nature of post-op is another situation perianesthesia nurses are ready for. As they are monitoring the patient, they use those nuggets of information they discovered in pre-op to help the patient get oriented. And for all the work they have done, perianesthesia nurses say that some patients may not remember their presence  or understand the nurse has been there the whole time.  So self-motivation is a big career skill—nurses in this role find meaning in helping patients and understand the situation might not lead to any recognition from the patient.

As with any nursing career, certification will help ensure you’re providing the best patient care possible. Perianesthesia nurses can find certification information through the American Board of Perianesthesia Nursing Certification, Inc. (ABPANC) where the Certified Post Anesthesia Nurse (CPAN®) and the Certified Ambulatory Perianesthesia Nurse (CAPA®) programs are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Specialty Nursing Certification (ABSNC).

If you’re a perianesthesia nurse, celebrate with your team this week and appreciate the difference you make for patients each day.

Appreciating Perianesthesia Nurses Everywhere

Appreciating Perianesthesia Nurses Everywhere

February 5 through 11 is a national observance of National PeriAnesthesia Nurse Awareness Week, sponsored by the American Society of PeriAnesthesia Nurses (ASPAN). Nurses who help transition patients pre- and post-procedure are there to offer intensive medical care and equally essential caregiving. They especially want patients to know they are there for them. They are their advocates throughout the process.

If you are interested in a career as a perianesthesia nurse, you’ll find the challenges of the position range from using your advanced nursing skills in urgent situations to incorporating the most basic hands-on comfort skills. Charged with caring for patients at critical pre- and post-procedure points, perianesthesia nurses must be able to multitask, to identify and respond to patient conditions immediately, and to do this all with a calm demeanor to help keep patient stress at bay.

Perianesthesia nurses especially enjoy their work caring for patients before and after procedures that require any anesthesia. Before a procedure, they are the nurses who are there to find out any information that could have an impact on the anesthesia care. With more and more patients appearing with several health conditions, they have to factor in variables like medications, physical condition and limitations, and emotional stability in their patient assessment. While they are assessing and gathering information, they are also providing a calm and unwavering support to help nervous patients know they are in trusted hands.

Perianesthesia nurses are also there when patients come out of anesthesia and are sometimes confused, uncomfortable, or even nauseated or vomiting. Post-procedure, nurses are once again continually monitoring a patient, assessing vital signs, reassessing existing health conditions, and at the same time, offering that hands-on caregiving that helps patients feel safe. Perianesthesia nurses then help determine how a patient can safely move to their next place whether that is to home, another hospital, or another care facility.

Many perianesthesia nurses say they have perfected a way to develop a rapport with patients that can build the trust necessary for completing such a long task list in a short time and under pressure. Once a nurse has identified a topic that helps the patient relax, they can begin conversations about family, pets, schooling, movies, or books that are both informative for nurses and distracting for patients. Many nurses also say they use those nuggets in the conversation to help bring a patient out of a drowsy and sometimes confused anesthesia.

For those considering this branch of nursing, ASPAN offers many resources and is an excellent reference to find out information about certification (through the American Board of Perianesthesia Nursing Certification, Inc.) that must be renewed every three years, scholarships for education, career resources, mentoring opportunities, conferences, and up-to-date anesthesia information.

This week, recognize and appreciate the perianesthesia nurses on your team. Their skills often help the entire procedure proceed smoothly and safely.