September 1, 2015

PACU Nurse Salary and Career Opportunities

PACU Nurse Salary and Career Opportunities

By Vonda J. Sines

Salary Overview

Post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) nurses are specialized professionals. These registered nurses (RNs) provide intensive observation and treatment of patients who have undergone anesthesia. They are also known as perianesthesia nurses and recovery room nurses.

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According to the University of Utah Health Care , caring for the most vulnerable patients requires expert clinicians who have topnotch critical thinking and communication skills. These nurses must work at a fast pace, support an interdisciplinary medical team, and be flexible with scheduling.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a 12% growth in RN employment from 2018 to 2028. A boom in PACU nurse openings should parallel or exceed this, primarily because of the aging U.S. population and passage of legislation that makes health care more readily available.

According to the BLS, the median salary for a registered nurse in 2019 is $73,300 per year, or $35.24 per hour, but conditions in your area may vary.

Paths to Increase PACU Nurse Salary

All PACU nurses are RNs. Qualifying for this specialty begins with earning an RN designation via an associate’s degree in nursing, a bachelor’s in nursing, or a hospital nursing diploma program. Graduates must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to be eligible for licensing as an RN.

Working in a PACU is seldom the first job for an RN. The best educational choices are courses in anesthesia-related care or opting for a perianesthesia concentration if a nursing curriculum offers it.

PACU nurses have many ways to increase their compensation. Those who have logged at least 1,800 hours of relevant experience are eligible to apply for certification, according to the Campaign for Nursing’s Future . The Certified Post Anesthesia Nurse (CPAN) designation and the Certified Ambulatory Perianesthesia Nurse (CAPA) certification are awarded by the American Board of Perianesthesia Nursing Certification, Inc .

The path to clinical advancement could include becoming a clinical nurse specialist or a nurse anesthetist. Management positions like nurse manager, supervisor, or director of nursing mean increased salary. Nurses who earn a master’s degree or a doctorate in nursing sometimes elect to become nursing educators.

PACU nurses can also increase their salary by working as travel nurses. Employers commonly offer financial assistance for relocation and housing with long-term assignments. Another option is working as a per diem nurse, which involves accepting short-term shift work.

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Vonda J. Sines is a freelance writer based in the Washington, DC area. She specializes in health/medical, career, and pet topics and writes extensively about Crohn’s disease. Her work has been published at EverydayHealth, Lifescript,, Yahoo! Health, Catholic Digest, Angie’s List Health, and on many more sites.

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