Perioperative nurses provide care before, during, and after to patients requiring surgery. Nurses who work in the operating room (OR) and the recovery room, also called PACU (Post-Anesthesia Care Unit), are also perioperative nurses. They are all part of the operative team along with surgeons, anesthesiologists, and nurse anesthetists.
Perioperative nurses keep the operating room functioning like a smooth-running machine. They are in charge of maintaining safety and cleanliness. Perioperative nurses ensure that patients are adequately prepared, pre-operative medication is given, and paperwork is accurately completed. In addition, perioperative nurses actively help the physician perform the surgery by readying the room before and handing the surgeon tools during the procedure.
The PACU nurses receive the patient after surgery. They closely monitor and give pain medication as needed while anesthesia wears off. They report any significant changes to the physician, and when the patient is ready to be released, they will inform and coordinate instructions with the family.
Perioperative nurses often receive advanced training to improve their skills. Some perioperative nurses specialize and only work with physicians who perform a specific type of surgery, such as plastic surgery, pediatrics, or oncology, or they train to become an RN first assistant (RNFA) to actively participate in the surgeries. Others become advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) either as surgical nurse practitioners or clinical nurse specialists (CNSs).