The Recovery Room

The primary purpose of the Recovery Room (PACU) nurse is the critical evaluation and stabilisation of the patient following anaesthesia and surgery. The patient is brought to Recovery by the Anaesthetist after reversal of the anaesthetic. The anaesthetist gives a detailed handover of the significant events which have taken place during surgery and any relevant history that the nurse needs to be aware of to care for the patient, eg allergies or medical conditions.

The Recovery unit can be quite busy and noisy and this can be very disorientating to the patient when they first regain consciousness and it is the recovery room nurse who will to reassure and orientate the patient. The nurse concentrates on the patient's airway, breathing, blood pressure and circulation, level of consciousness, warmth, dressings etc and post op orders related to their surgery. Most importantly the recovery nurse will inititate post operative their pain management .

After your surgery you may expect to find on awakening an oxygen mask on your face and certain monitoring equipment attached to monitor vital signs, eg. blood pressure, pulse and temperature.

You may often have an intravenous infusion (a 'drip') running which is usually continued after discharge to the ward. This is to provide necessary fluids, electrolytes and medications such as antibiotics and pain relief.

The most important stage now is management of any pain from the surgery. Pain relief is given via a few methods, i.e. a patient controlled analgesia machine (PCA), an epidural injection or infusion (PCEA), or intravenous injections of an analgesic medication all of which will be explained to you by your anaesthetist prior to surgery. Your level of pain will be monitored by the recovery nurse with the aim of making you as comfortable as possible. It is important to realise that no operation is completely pain free.

When you are comfortable, awake and alert and satisfy the discharge criteria from the Recovery ward, you will be discharged from Recovery and escorted back to the ward accompanied by a Recovery nurse. Back in your ward, you will be cared for by the ward staff and all significant observations and events will be recorded. Also all further orders for medications, pain relief, anti-emetics and care of drains, wound etc will be carried out. Your friends and family will be able to visit you in the ward.

Usually a patient is in Recovery for approximately 60 minutes. At ward level after the Recovery nurse has handed over to the Ward nurse, the ward staff will continue your post-operative care with assistance (where required) by resident doctors and under the supervision of your surgeon.

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