Ambulatory to hospital PACU?


I'm starting a new job working in ambulatory surgery (after 9 months of med surg on a terribly dysfunctional floor) working as a circulating and PACU nurse for a small in-office surgical center. I'll be doing set up, circulating during cases (local, MAC and general) and will be in charge of transitioning the patient to PACU and sending them home.

Ideally, I'd like to do this job for a few years and then transition back into the hospital setting, either OR or PACU since floor nursing was really not for me. Will hospitals take my ambulatory experience or will I be stuck working ambulatory if I want to do surgical nursing?


3,413 Posts

Has 38 years experience.

I have only worked pre-op and PACU in both acute care hospitals and free standing surgery centers. I have "worked" in the OR giving moderate sedation for IV cases not requiring an anesthesiologist.

I think your job description and skills sound great for applying to an OR as a circulator or a PACU nurse in an acute care hospital. What kind of surgeries will you be doing?

Learning to circulate and learning to "scrub,," function as a surgical tech, are great skills that acute care hospitals have to pay a lot of orientation time for a new nurse with no experience to learn. Some hospitals use RN's as OR tech's, some still use techs to scrub.

You could join AORN, makes your resume look more impressive.


311 Posts

Has 1 years experience.

Plastic and derm - your garden variety of plastic and reconstructive procedures (face lifts, breasts, lipo, tummy tucks) and some derm (mohs). I think I will join AORN, thanks for the suggestion.


3,413 Posts

Has 38 years experience.

It all sounds good to me. Some OR managers might turn their noses up at a circulator who has "only done plastics." There would be a learning curve to transition into an OR nurse where a myriad of other routine, and emergency, surgeries, are done. But still you are way ahead of new grads or nurses with no OR experience.

And your PACU skill would be fine for most cases. Some PACU's do get critical cases, patients on vents, drips, art lines, central lines, etc. But often "critical" patients go straight from OR to ICU. Anyway none of that stuff can't be learned...I learned it and I'm not the brightest penny in the jar! Good luck.


32 Posts

Specializes in POCU/PACU, Hospice. Has 10 years experience.

I went from an ambulatory/same day surgery PACU to a PACU in the main OR of a level 1 trauma center. It was a bug adjustment in terms of pace, pt load, acuity, etc. but I found it worth it and really enjoyable.


2 Articles; 341 Posts

Specializes in PACU, presurgical testing. Has 4 years experience.

You'd be a shoo-in at a hospital that is willing to train new grads into OR, PACU, and other periop specialties--with your experience you'd be ahead of the curve; you'd benefit from the acute care training and would bring a new perspective to the group!

Focus on the work flow and take some time to learn the more critical aspects of your position (I assume your postops are on 3-leads? Do you need ACLS?), and you'll be an asset. I went right into PACU from school and have managed to make a go of it, so you shouldn't be worried!