Perianesthesia Nurses Celebrate Dynamic Career Choice

Perianesthesia Nurses Celebrate Dynamic Career Choice

Patients are often aware of all the nurses who care for them during a medical procedure, and particularly the perianesthesia nurses who are fierce patient advocates during a time when patients are under and emerging from sedation.a group of five nurses for perianesthesia nursing

As PeriAnesthesia Nurse Awareness Week (this year from February 5-11) celebrates all the work nurses do in this specialty and helps raise awareness of perianesthesia nursing as a career path.

A perianesthesia nurse has diverse responsibilities that can change instantly. They assess patients as they are preparing for a procedure, as they begin, undergo, and emerge from anesthesia–and the process is different for every patient (even if they have worked with the patient previously). The skill set in this specialty is vast and includes an ability to use critical thinking to identify, prevent, or manage a potential crisis.

Perianesthesia nurses care for patients in the time before a procedure during what might seem like a hectic time for patients. As patients are answering questions, getting ready for the procedure, and meeting the medical team, the perianesthesia nurse is developing a rapport and gathering valuable information that can help keep the patient as safe as possible while they are under sedation.

Perianesthesia nurses are also right at the patient’s side during recovery keeping a close watch to assess patients as they are emerging from of the effects of anesthesia. This is an important time because although the procedure may be over, patients are just beginning their recovery process. Their bodies might react in different ways as the anesthesia wears off, so nurses have to be ready for anything from a patient who is crying to one who might be shouting. And during that time, they are constantly assessing the patient for their levels of pain so they can most effectively establish a pain management plan and ensure patient safety.

An essential part of perianesthesia nursing is to develop a fine-tuned awareness of each patient, even during hectic times. Perianesthesia nurses scan patients to take a comprehensive inventory of their vital signs, skin color, breathing patterns, and subtle body movements to ensure that a patient feels safe and has the very best outcome.

Perianesthesia nurses are often passionate about the work they do and the way they are able to connect with patients and their families in a short time. They develop an intuitive approach to patients–from their anxiety level before a procedure to their process in recovery. They are advocates for their patients and are also aware of the important professional connections they make with their other health care team members and with each other.

The American Society of PeriAnesthesia Nurses (ASPAN) offers excellent resources and opportunities for networking and education for anyone interested in a career in perianesthesia nursing. Whether you’re interested in attending ASPAN’s annual conference, are looking to attain CPAN® and/or CAPA®  credentials through certification, or want to expand your knowledge by reading more information about perianesthesia nursing, ASPAN has a wealth of resources for this dynamic nursing career.

What’s it Like Working as a Perianesthesia Nurse?

What’s it Like Working as a Perianesthesia Nurse?

When patients have surgery or other procedures in which they have to receive anesthesia, a team works together to ensure the patient’s safety and best care. One of these team members is the perianesthesia nurse.

Terry Clifford, MSN, RN, CPAN, CAPA, FASPAN, has worked in this field since 1991 and took time to answer our questions about it.

As a perianesthesia nurse, what does your job entail? What do you do on a daily basis?

Within the scope of perianesthesia nursing, there are a number of opportunities to serve. From 1991 until 2015, I worked as a clinical bedside nurse in the PACU (post anesthesia care unit). Throughout that time, I often worked as the clinical resource nurse for the unit, not only caring for patients emerging from anesthesia, but helping to coordinate resources within the unit to ensure safe patient ratios, appropriate breaks for staff, etc.

Today, I am the perioperative nurse manager responsible for leadership of 60+ staff members working between the preoperative clinic, the ambulatory surgery unit, and the post anesthesia care units. My current role in perianesthesia nursing includes oversight of unit-based budgets and productivity, staff education and guidance, and active participation in surgical services activities geared at optimization of services and providing quality care.

Why did you choose this field of nursing?

After graduating from nursing school in 1981, I was fortunate to have many opportunities to work in a wide variety of subspecialties, from med-surg, to cardiac rehab, to care coordination, to house supervisor. Upon graduating from a master’s program in 1991, I happened upon a clinical position in the PACU and never left.

It’s an amazing privilege to be able to help guide a patient and family through experiences that can seem frightening, during a time when they are most vulnerable and often fearful. There have been such wonderful advances in the science of anesthesia and pain management that being on the cutting edge of change is always exciting.

What’s the most surprising thing about your job that other nurses wouldn’t expect?

I think one of the interesting things about perianesthesia care is that while we can be confident that we have provided incredible support to safely and competently guide a patient through a surgical or procedural experience, many times the patient does not remember anything. This was disappointing to some nurses who highly value the nurse-patient relationship, but I believe that even in the fog of anesthesia, and the fact that the patient may or may not remember, we do an amazing job of keeping the patient experience a positive one.

What would you say to someone considering this type of nursing work?

I highly encourage staff to pursue their passion—if this is an area of interest, by all means, find a way in!

I think that perianesthesia nursing is the best kept secret in this profession. Every day, I am grateful for the privilege it offers as far as providing safe, respectful care to patients as well as providing safe, respectful leadership to staff.