How much previous experience is enough to make a competent PACU nurse?


  • Specializes in Peds Med/Surg, PICU,Ped ED.

I've been browsing this forum to get an idea about PACU nursing. I worked in the PICU for 1.5 years (miss it). My current position (Ped ED in community hosp.) has great hours but the environment is negative and I am not using any of my critical care skills. I am like a robot going through the motions when I am at work. The hours in the PACU are great for a working mom such as myself but I wonder about my previous experience. I read an old post that basically said PACU is a where you go after ICU. What do you seasoned PACU nurses suggest is a sufficient amount of ICU experience to make a competent PACU nurse ?

sharann, BSN, RN

1,758 Posts

Not all of us have had vast ICU experience. I came in to PACU with year of Step down cardiac adult floor experience. I learned from the bottom up and had 3 months orentation(on the job). I was very motivated to learn and had great nurses who helped and mentored me. I have been in the same PACU for 5 years now and love it! I got my CPAN cert a couple years ago andnow I am the mentor to new people. I agree critical care experience would have helped me, but I managed to do it and so have many others who followed me. The one ICU nurse we had was awful at PACU nursing, so it reallly all depends. MAke sure to get ACLS and PALS and all that first, makes it less of a hassle to get right in there. My IV skills have suffered since most of ours have them, but my ACLS skills are tip top!Good luck


250 Posts

I think if you have critical care or ER experience & your assessment skills are top notch you can learn PACU. I do think a good hospital orientation program (min. 3 mos) is crucial, and even then it will be a while for you to hone your skills. You should not be expected to be thrown in there to sink or swim. I had a 6 mo orientation & was assigned a preceptor for 3 mos. It is a good thing to learn b/c experienced PACU nurses are at a premium now- and employers are willing to pay top wages for good solid experienced PACU RNs. Good luck.

sharann, BSN, RN

1,758 Posts

nikola had great advice I forgot to mention that it will still take about a year to feel like you are not a complete fraud in the specialty. Its like any new specialty I work with kids and babies all the time but I would freak in PEDS or PICU(or LandD or CCU or ER....)

The main things are motivation determination and alot of nerve!


58 Posts

Specializes in Peds Med/Surg, PICU,Ped ED.

Thanks for all the encouraging words. It's great to hear from people who love their jobs. I really enjoy learning and love to keep busy. I will continue to do my research. I guess another key factor to success in this area is the proper orientation and support during the learning process. Look forward to hearing more. ;)

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