When in the stressful situation of having anesthesia administered for a surgical or radiological procedure, there's something to be said for waking up to a friendly, familiar face. Living in a small community such as Meadville, we tend to know a lot of our patients. When a patient awakens to one of the pleasant, good natured registered nurses of MMC's Post Anesthesia Care Unit, they find comfort in the fact that this person is their advocate; that she won't let anything happen to them.
The Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) has been deemed by professionals as one of the most critical areas in a hospital. The registered nurses who make up the staff of MMC's unit monitor the patient as they are brought from a "state of wakelessness to a state of wakefulness." Of these individuals, all are ACLS certified.
Under the direction of Unit Manager Bev Kantz, RN, CPAN, this team carries out duties at both Liberty Street and Grove Street facilities, providing care for patients from pediatrics to geriatrics. The patients for which they care include surgical patients under general anesthesia as well as spinal, epidural and regional block. They serve caesarian section patients in the New Life Unit surgical area after hours and, on occasion, patients who have had diagnostic radiological procedures. The staff is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. On those occasions when the census and staffing allow, however, after hours post operative recovery may be performed by the ICU staff.
The nurses' three main objectives are to maintain an open airway (provide adequate respiratory function), to keep the patient pain and nausea free, and to ensure the patient is awake and alert in a short amount of time. The care they offer is based on the ASPAN Standards of Perianesthesia Nursing Practice. Many positive changes in procedures and medications over the years have helped to make patients more comfortable by the time they return to their rooms.
In addition to monitoring the patient's functions during the recovery process, the PACU nurses also comfort the patient's anxious family members. The staff offers reassurance to mothers when they give us their babies for operative procedures. By updating the family on several occasions throughout the recovery process, the PACU staff can calm many of the fears that arise with the unknown.
The PACU staff operates with a wonderful team spirit. The nurses enjoy working in this department and work so closely with each other that they become each other's family of sorts. Flexibility is a big key to being able to work comfortably in such an atmosphere. The staff works together to cover each other's call when outside commitments may conflict.
Each PACU nurse must feel a twinge of both pride and emotion swell over them when they see their friends or prior patients open their eyes and hear them say "I'm so glad to see you!"