Hiring for a PACU nursing position means more than just figuring out whether your candidate knows their way around a hospital – perioperative nurses must have top-notch patient communication and critical thinking skills in order to provide quality care. In this post, we outline the basic requirements of PACU nursing, and provide you with a starter interview which you can use to get you started asking the right questions to your PACU nursing candidates.

What does it take to be a PACU nurse?

PACU stands for Post Anesthesia Care Unit. Patients in PACU have just undergone surgery and are in the very first phase of their recovery. Nurses who work in PACU are responsible for ensuring that these patients awake safely from anesthesia. This involves monitoring vital signs, checking levels of consciousness, and keeping an eye out for any signs of complications.

To qualify for a PACU position, a nurse must hold an RN license. This means they will need an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing, and must pass the NCLEX-RN. It is advised that nursing students who wish to specialize in the PACU take courses in anesthesiology during their education. RNs applying for PACU positions should also have prior experience working as a nurse in a hospital or clinic.

Because PACU nurses are usually the first human interaction a post-anesthesia patient has, they must also possess a high degree of emotional intelligence (EQ), patience, and the ability to communicate effectively with both their patient and the patient’s family.

The questions in your PACU interview should determine not only the candidate’s educational and experiential qualifications, but also their communication skills, their EQ, and their ability to strategize timely patient care.

[Read More: PACU Nurse Salary]

PACU Nurse Interview Questions

PACU Nurse Interview Questions for Dealing with Patients

  1. Describe an encounter you had with an extremely difficult patient. How did you handle the situation? What was the outcome?
  2. Tell me about a breakthrough moment you had with a patient who was difficult or uncooperative. What did you do to help them?
  3. Talk about a time when a patient’s family was especially pleased with the care you provided. What do you feel lead to their satisfaction?
  4. Tell me about a situation with a difficult-to-understand patient where you were able to listen to and communicate with them effectively in order to address a problem.
  5. Tell me about your go-to strategy for communicating with post-anesthesia patients.

PACU Nurse Interview Questions for Communication

  1. Tell me about a time you were able to successfully explain an anesthetic procedure to a patient with no understanding of medical terminology.
  2. Describe a situation you experienced in which you were the resident medical expert. What did you do to help everyone involved understand you?
  3. Tell me about a time you experienced conflict with a co-worker, supervisor, manager, or doctor. How did you employ your communication skills as a nurse to resolve the situation? What was the outcome?
  4. Tell me about a time you had to correct a misunderstanding which was due to poor communication on your part, either with a patient, a doctor, or a fellow nurse. What steps did you take? What was the outcome?
  5. Talk about an interaction with a patient’s worried family member you had where you were able to ease their anxieties through effective listening and communication.

PACU Nurse Interview Questions for Experience and Training

  1. Tell me about your educational background, from initial training as a nurse, to continuing education you are engaged in to maintain your expertise as a PACU professional.
  2. What training and experience do you have which qualify you to work as a PACU nurse?
  3. Walk me through the procedure you follow with a patient who is just waking up from anesthesia.
  4. What course of action might you take if a patient has normal vital signs, but is not reviving from the anesthesia in a timely manner?
  5. Describe a typical day at work for you as a PACU nurse.

PACU Nurse Interview Questions for Time Management

  1. Tell me about a patient you had who was extremely ill and required a lot of attention. How did you handle your patient load while giving this patient the care they needed?
  2. Describe a time when you felt overwhelmed by your patient load. How did you manage priority while maintaining effective patient care?
  3. Talk about a time when you worked in an extremely fast-paced environment. How are you able to perform your tasks quickly, and precisely?
  4. What do you do if your replacement never shows up?
  5. Having many patients in PACU can mean multiple revivals at the same time. It requires some multi-tasking, and the ability to delegate. How would you think about prioritizing and timing wake-up care if more than one of your patients woke up at the same time?

PACU Nurse Interview Questions for Motivation and Core Values

  1. Why did you choose to specialize in PACU nursing?
  2. Why did you choose to become a nurse?
  3. What qualities do you possess that you feel are vital characteristics to PACU nursing? Nursing in general?
  4. Tell me about a time you went above and beyond the requirements of your position to help a patient or your team. What motivated you to take this action? What was the outcome?
  5. What do you feel is the most difficult aspect of being a nurse? The most rewarding? Do you feel the rewards are worth the hardships?

Final Thoughts: PACU Nurse Interview Questions

Building an excellent team for your hospital’s PACU begins with an excellent interview. Leverage the questions outlined in our sample PACU interview, and begin finding qualified nurses who are a perfect fit to the needs of your organization.

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