Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Day In The Life as a PACU Volunteer

1000-1200: Meeting the Charge Nurse & support staff, learning where the staff lounge, supplies room & hazardous waste rooms are located, ice machine & how to make an ice pack, in what order beds are assigned & which nurses are assigned to which beds, how to input patients in the system, learning to communicate with the surgery liaison & learning the name of the equipment in the PACU.

1200-1400: Emptying catheters. Propping arms/legs/knees/ankles on pillows post-op to keep the patient as comfortable as possible, while hoping to reduce swelling & pain. Explaining to patients where they were, why they were there & that they were okay. Holding patients hands and comforting them as they come out from anesthesia & the confusion it often causes. In one case, convincing a male patient that he was, in fact, male and not a female, as he kept asking me. {Ohhh the stories I already have! After my first 7 hour shift!}  Taking blood pressures, oral temperatures and feeding patients ice chips. Removing  12 leads, O2 sat monitors & every other wire they're connected to upon discharge. Transporting patients to other nursing floors for observation and/or a nights stay. Transporting patients to a temporary holding room where their families meet them to take them home immediately. Speaking with family as they come in to see their loved ones post-op.

1400-1430: Blessed lunch time! 30 minutes to scarf down some turkey meat, an apple, a string cheese and a handful of nuts. And a quick phone call to the hubs, to let him know I've survived my first 4 hours in PACU.

1430-1700: More of the same stuff I did between 1200 & 1400. But adding in interacting with Anesthesiologists, listening to reports on patients as they enter the PACU & reading trying to decipher surgeons notes in patient records. Giving a sponge bath to the man who thought he was a woman after he soiled his gown, putting a diaper on an adult patient, placing a bed pan under a female patient, fetching warm blankets from the supply room when a blood pressure dropped dramatically for unexplained reasons (I left before I found out what happened).

1700: Time to go home!

I had no idea how quickly my shift would go by. I realize it won't always be like that, but it felt as if I had only been there for a few hours, not 7! The lulls were the perfect opportunity to grab a snack, use the restroom, chug some water, or rest tired tootsies. And then BAM! 4 patients would be wheeled in, one after the other, and the process began again. We'd work really hard for a solid 30-45 minutes and all would be calm. We'd be thankful for the lull. You don't realize how hungry, thirsty, sore your feet/back are or how badly you have to use the restroom until the lull comes. And then it ALL hits you at once :)

I can't wait to be a nurse. I loved the patient interaction (even when they were loopy & out of it). I loved transporting the patients & getting to chat with them briefly once they were lucid. I can't say I loved emptying catheters, but I loved learning something new and being able to check that off on my training list. The nurses & other staff were amazing--helpful, but willing to let me learn. This was the motivation, the nudge, the push I needed to keep me heading in the right direction. 

I think the best part was when my mentor introduced me to the head honcho nurse of the PACU. We exchanged pleasantries & then the phone started ringing. Everyone was busy with their patients, so I excused myself and grabbed the phone, taking a message from Radiology. As I hung up the phone, I heard the head honcho say quietly to my mentor, "Oh yeah. We will be hiring her in a few years, you can bet on it."


  1. I am SO SO SO SOOOOOOOOOOO EXCITED for you! This pleases me beyond belief.

    I want you to remember this feeling - the thrill of it all - that exhilaration after a day of really hard work (because it only gets harder!)... Especially the times you have to make a decision and aren't sure what to do and don't have time to think about it. Or the times you get urine all over yourself :)

    I knew this was the right career for you! Its really messy and dirty and smelly and "in your face" (last night I had an old lady to rub harder when I was cleaning between her legs..................) but it is so worth it at the end of the day.

    Some of my classmates last semester went into nursing for the wrong reason - their mom wanted them to, they thought it sounded easy, they wanted to work with babies (I don't... you have to have a heart made of steal to work with sick kids). We lost at least 20 of them. The fact that you got to confirm that this is the career for you will make all your hard working finishing up those pre-reqs even more worthwhile!

  2. That sounds like a great day! way to impress the head lady!

  3. Wow, what a day! Glad you survived and that you are really enjoying it. Time goes fast when you enjoy what you do. Can't wait to hear more.

  4. that's awesome you made such a great impression on your first day! that must be a great feeling...

  5. Wow! That is so cool. It's great that you get to do some hands on. I just know you will be an amazing nurse :)

  6. Your experience is putting you way ahead of the game...which is great!!! I'm glade you're getting such awesome experience. The PACU would be a great place to work!


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