Each year, PeriAnesthesia Nurse Awareness Week is celebrated in February (this year from February 6-12) and highlights the nursing care and work provided by perianesthesia nurses.
Perianesthesia nurses work alongside a patient as they are preparing for or recovering from a procedure that requires sedation. Nurses in this specialty are dedicated to patient safety and are responsible for monitoring and assessing patients as they move through the preparation and recovery processes.
Patients are often nervous when they’re having any kind of procedure and some are particularly anxious about anesthesia. As they conduct their range of duties, perianesthesia nurses are gathering medical and personal information from the patient, working with the team on the sedation process, and also working one-on-one with the patient to connect with them and keep them as comfortable as possible.
Knowing the entire process will be easier for the patient and the healthcare team if the patient is as relaxed as possible, the nurse will use communication skills to find subjects that a patient wants to talk about and will continually steer the conversation to those areas. Does the patient love to fish or have vacation plans they want to talk about? Maybe they have a habit like knitting or skateboarding or writing the next great novel–perianesthesia nurses will use questions they fine-tune over their years of experience to find that out. As the patient goes under sedation, that conversation will be calming. And perianesthesia nurses are already looking ahead to the patient’s period of recovery post-procedure to once again revisit those familiar topics. As the patient begins to come out of sedation, the perianesthesia nurse will be there with them and assessing them head-to-toe for any potential problems. As they are checking vital signs and looking for signs of pain, they will be talking with the patient to bring them to a more alert state.
As perianesthesia nurses are keeping a conversation going (even if it’s one-sided for a while), they will check to make sure the patient is breathing properly and that their vital signs are as expected, but they also use an extra level of awareness to look at everything from skin tone to muscle twitches to any indications of discomfort. Each patient will respond to anesthesia in a different manner, so these nurses will need to be aware of emotional changes or confusion as well as physical reactions including nausea or pain.
During pre- and post-procedure times, perianesthesia nurses must also extend that awareness to the entire area. As the patient’s advocate, they will be constantly monitoring equipment, surgical sites and dressings, and the patient’s comfort level.
And even though many people don’t realize the intense level of care they receive from a perianesthesia nurse, the care impacts their entire experience. Perianesthesia nurses will work after a procedure to communicate with the healthcare team about medications, recovery pace, or complications. They will need to conduct a comprehensive hand-off to the next nursing team if their shift ends before the patient is out of their care.
Perianesthesia nurses also communicate with families before the procedure to explain the process and what they can expect as the patient moves through the procedure and then they will communicate with them about post-procedure care, home care guidance, and expectations for recovery.
The list of fears people have about surgery is long and varied. With the help of a perianesthesia nurse, those concerns–about the procedure itself to pain afterwards (and all the worries in between)–can be alleviated. As a patient ally before, during, and after a procedure, perianesthesia nurses are the patient’s voice when they aren’t able to advocate for themselves.
This week celebrates PeriAnesthesia Nurse Awareness Week (February 7-13) to help people understand this nursing specialty as a career and as a patient-focused presence throughout a procedure. Sponsored by the American Society of PeriAnesthesia Nurses, this week helps highlight the professional work of the nurses who patients depend on but often don’t realize exactly what they do.
The biggest surprise for many patients is that in many organizations perianesthesia nurses remain by their sides throughout the entire procedure. They are the nurses who assess them and administer care in the often-nervous times right before a procedure. Once the patient is under sedation, perianesthesia nurses remain with the patient throughout the procedure to continually monitor their progress and care for them when they aren’t able to speak.
Once the patient moves to recovery, perianesthesia nurses continue their careful assessment and monitoring all while they are helping a patient emerge from anesthesia. And while patients might remember the beginning and ending of the process, they often are surprised to know their perianesthesia nurse remained with them the entire time.
If you’re interested in a career as a perianesthesia nurse, your attention to hands-on details like assessing equipment or the patient’s vital signs must be exacting. Your focus on the patient is unrelenting because they are under sedation for the majority of the time you might be with them.
Other skills that are more difficult to quantify are the perianesthesia nurse’s true superpower. As a perianesthesia nurse, you need to become an expert at monitoring the most subtle changes in a patient–often the things that could go unnoticed during a busy procedure. You’ll become the expert on noticing the most minor change in the patient’s breathing or coloring. You’ll notice if something just seems off or if the patient seems to be in or approaching even the most minor distress.
During procedures, nurses in this role are comfortable acting fast, speaking up quickly, and persisting to ensure their concerns are acted upon. They know the patient can’t speak up and so they take this responsibility to heart. When they are with a patient, perianesthesia nurses are efficient at gathering information while making the patient feel more at ease when they are awake and as an essential part of the surgical team. It’s a tough balancing act and nurses in the role say they develop certain approaches over time that work best for them.
They excel at engaging patients in casual conversation in pre-op that also gives the nurses information they need to provide the best care. While chatting about hobbies, family members, music, or cooking might seem like offhand talk before surgery, perianesthesia nurses direct the conversation with purpose. They are constantly looking for topics patients are especially happy to discuss. It helps reduce the patient’s anxiety about the procedure, and the nurse uses the information as part of an overall approach. When the patient is emerging from sedation in recovery, they can be confused or feeling unwell. They might wake up agitated or emotional. As nurses monitor the patient’s status, they will bring up those same topics to help the patient come to with familiar conversation. In the recovery period, nurses will also assist with pain management and will watch for signs the patient is ready to move out of recovery.
If you’re thinking of work as a perianesthesia nurse, find out as much as you can about what your day will be like and how nurses sharpen their skills for this work. The work with patients is direct, but it’s not the same as other specialties as patients often are hazy on the details of what’s going on around them. But your high-quality nursing care and role as an advocate are meaningful and rewarding.
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 many other areas of nursing, population changes and national health trends are shifting this specialty. Perianesthesia nurses are a patient’s advocate and guardian during any procedure that requires anesthesia. As the largest generation, the baby boomers, continues to swell the population of seniors, the need for perianesthesia nurses who are skilled with older adults is critical. And as some healthcare shifts away from hospital settings, perianesthesia nurses can expect to find more job opportunities in ambulatory surgery sites.
Nurses in this area are with a patient before, during, and after anesthesia, so they provide essential medical care while also using their understanding about personality and the human condition to make the process as easy as possible for patients.
Before anesthesia, a perianesthesia nurse will help a patient prepare for whatever procedure they are having. The nurse is responsible for educating the patient about anesthesia and answering any questions they or their family members might have. As some people are hesitant about anesthesia, may have had a bad reaction to it before, or are nervous about being sedated, nurses need to be able to offer factual advice that addresses the needs of each person. They are also there to let the patient know they will be with them the entire time, even when the patient is under anesthesia and not aware. Sometimes, just letting a patient know they are not alone is a huge relief.
During surgery, perianesthesia nurses shift their focus from a fully awake patient to one that is now under anesthesia and unable to advocate for themselves. This is when the focus shifts to the details that can be almost imperceptible. Nurses watch for any changes in vital signs that could signal a patient is in distress. But one of the biggest skills perianesthesia nurses are well-known for is their ability to watch a human body for small changes. Changes in skin tone, breathing, or muscle movement are of critical importance for the perianesthesia nurse. And because they will care for patients of all ages, knowing what is expected and what is not at each age is essential.
As the patient moves into recovery, the perianesthesia nurse is still at bedside, but this time with a dual focus—on the patient who is adjusting to the anesthesia wearing off and on those same body signals which now change with the patient coming out of a sedated state. People react very differently in this phase of recovery, so again the perianesthesia nurse has to know what to expect and how to help guide a patient through this initial phase.
Minority perianesthesia nurses are especially needed. A nurse who understands a patient’s language, culture, and customs will be much more in-tune with what the patient might be concerned with. If they are frightened, speaking in their first language will be easier, and having a nurse who can communicate easily with them will eliminate stress and confusion. When they are in recovery, the same kind of communication is beneficial to the patient and to the rest of the healthcare team as well.
As an advocate for patients when they are unable to be their own advocate, perianesthesia nurses have a significant role in patient care. This is a great week to honor all they do.
The PeriAnesthesia Nurse Awareness Week is celebrated this year from February 4-10 and is a time when nurses in this specialty are recognized for the work they do. The week also allows an opportunity for education about the specialty and the type of care these nurses deliver.
The American Society of PeriAnesthesia Nurses (ASPAN) is an important resource for nurses who work in the perianesthesia realm and those who are considering this specialty. Many people know perianesthesia nurses as part of the essential surgical team, but they are also intricately involved in pain management procedures that involve anesthesia.
Perianesthesia nurses are present during all aspects of anesthesia care. They work with patients during pre- and post-operative care. They also monitor and advocate for patients during procedures. As a perianesthesia nurse, one must remain vigilant for any signs of difficulty in the patient, so nurses are constantly monitoring vital signs and breathing.
Because of the careful and meticulous preoperative care, these nurses also know how to monitor visually to make sure the patient is tolerating the procedure well. If there are any problems, nurses are there. When patients are recovering from a procedure, the nurse continues to monitor their recovery as the anesthesia wears off. They are a professional medical presence and a calming personal presence as well.
As with other specialties, certification is important for perianesthesia nurses as the challenges of medications, patient health, and procedure can make for a complex situation. All ages of patients undergo anesthesia, so nurses need to have training and experience with every age from newborns to the very elderly.
Conditions can make people more frail and the potential for an allergy or a bad reaction to anesthesia is always present. Remaining educated with the latest information and evidence-based practices is critical in this specialty.
As a perianesthesia nurse, time is especially important during patient interactions. They have a short window of time to assess a patient, put that person at ease, and find a common thread or conversation point that can be used during postop care. Often perianesthesia nurses will try to find an interesting detail about the patient and use that as a conversation point to help orient patients after procedures.
Some perianesthesia nurses work in pain management, helping patients and monitoring them closely as they receive different anesthesia, some of which is not entirely sedating, for pain. In this case, they act as advocates as patients manage the procedures and the effects of the anesthesia.
If you’re a perianesthesia nurse, celebrate all you do this week. If you have perianesthesia nurses on your team, give them recognition for the essential role they play in your organization and in patients’ lives.