Experienced LPN but new RN...should I start in PACU?

Specialties PACU


I am an LPN enrolled in a RN program that I will graduate from in about a year. I have been an LPN for 2 years and work on the Med/Surg unit of a local hospital. I feel like my clinical skills are pretty good. When I graduate RN school, I really want to work in the PACU. I got to shadow in the PACU for 2 weeks while I was in school before and absolutely loved it. I also have a long surgical history myself, so I feel like I have been in the patient's shoes, so to speak...Anyway, a lot of nurses I've talked to at my hospital tell me even though I have been an LPN for awhile, as a new RN I should not start in the PACU, that I should get at least a year's experience in a critical care area (ICU). They say it will make me a better PACU nurse in the long run. So...I want advice from nurses that currently work in the PACU...what was your prior experience before coming to PACU and if you did have some experience in critical care, has it helped you in the PACU? Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks.

Kacy, LPN

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119 Posts

G'day All,

I"ve been an EN since 1995, in OT since 1999, and just graduated and registered. I've heard a boatload of advice on the subject, taken it all on board, and worked out what I thought worked for me. You have to do the same. Most people have said that I should do some ward time to consolidate my RN experience so that I don't forget my training, and that I would regret it if I specialised straight away. Several hospitals I contacted refused to take me straight into theatres without first doing a newgrad programme on the wards for 6-12 months.

Personally, the placements on the wards I did during my BN reminded me of how much I disliked ward life and preferred OT, and I couldn't wait to get back to theatres. When I was offered to do the perioperative course based on my EN experience, I jumped at the chance, seeing it as a way to best utilise my EN experience to enhance my RN role, rather than starting from scratch.

The hospital has now asked me to complete the study components of the newgrad programme as well, but parallell to my OT course, so at least I won't be wasting(for me, anyway) a year doing it. In an effort to broaden my nursing skills away from theatres without effecting my civilian career, I'm also going through the recruitment process for an air force RN flying officer.

I've found a compromise situation that I think will work best for me in the long term, and I'm certain that you can too. I was sick of being told that my EN experience counted for nothing as an RN. My First Aid experience led to me beeing a better EN, which in turn is leading to me being a better RN. My advice is, utilise your previous experience to the best advantage you can, and find a solution that works best for you.

Have Fun, Jason 8^)

PACU is a great job, but on some levels you need critical care experience. If the hospital is willing to train you, go for it. Perhaps you could start in preop and go from there......nellie


122 Posts

I worked in ICU for 6yrs before coming to pacu. (and 5 yrs peds and med/surg before that) We prefer critical care exp.. I use my critical care skills daily. Yesterday I had a pt with EF 15%, on a vent with dobutamine gtt., bleeding like a pig. I gave him 2 unit prbc's and 2 ffp muliple lab draws, art line , cvp. This pt was a very poor surgical risk but would have died without surgery. This is not a piece of cake take vs as people wake up job. You need top notch airway managment skills and ciritical decison making ablities. I have ACLS, PALS, NALS, TNCC and CPAN. My advice would be to work at least one yr in ICU. PACU is a great place to work but I don't think many people understand what we really do.

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