A certified post anesthesia nurse (CPAN) specializes in the care of patients who have recently undergone surgery or any other procedure thatrequires the use of anesthesia. Certified post anesthesia nurses must meet the physiological, behavioral/cognitive, safety and advocacy needs of these patients, who may still be under the influences of anesthesia or who may be coping with its after effects.
The duties of a certified post anesthesia nurse include working with patients immediately following surgery and treating the side effects of anesthesia. Nurses in this position need to know how to work with ventilators, multi-drug drips and other instruments that stay with patients coming out of the operating room. Patients recovering from anesthesia can be unstable and may fall ill easily. A certified post anesthesia nurse needs excellent assessment skills to react to a patient’s changing status quickly and efficiently. He or she also works with a variety of physicians, from anesthesiologists to surgeons. Nurses with a CPAN credential can work in hospitals and same-day surgery centers and often work in a special area or unit of a hospital or clinic designated for patients who have had surgery or conscious sedation—such as a colonoscopy.
Curriculum and Core Classes
Post-anesthesia nurse education programs will begin the same way for every student. Completion of an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing is the first step. Programs are widely available across the United States, with schedules designed to accommodate full and part- time students. Many options are available for classroom or online study with clinical completed on-site. In addition to fulfilling general education requirements, both associate and bachelor’s nursing programs focus on providing core content in patient assessment and care and lead to eligibility to sit for the Registered Nurse (RN) exam in the state of practice.
To become a Certified Post Anesthesia Nurse (CPAN®), a candidate must first obtain unrestricted RN licensure in the United States and have a minimum of 1,800 hours of direct perianesthesia clinical experience in the two years prior to applying to take the certification exam. Once the application, documentation and fees are submitted and approved, the candidate may sit for the exam. The American Board of PeriAnesthesia Nursing Certification, Inc. (ABPANC) also offers another certification program, Certified Ambulatory PeriAnesthesia Nurse (CAPA®). Depending upon the patient setting and the level of involvement with the patient throughout the anesthesia process, the post-anesthesia nurse may opt to get both certifications.
The questions for both exams focus on physiologic, safety, behavioral and cognitive needs of the patient. Eligibility requirements are the same for both certifications and a BSN degree is not required. The main distinction between the two is that CPAN nurses focus on post-operative care while CAPA nurses may be involved in patient care from the onset of anesthetic and into the OR. These certifications are not mandated, but do validate and substantiate the experience and expertise of the post-anesthesia nurse.
Both the CPAN® and CAPA® certifications must be renewed every three years. To renew the credentials after the three year period, certified post-anesthesia nurses must have 1,200 hours of experience during the three year certification period, current and unrestricted RN license, successful completion the exam or earn 90 hours of continual learning credits related to the field.
Programs to earn an associate degree in nursing usually take two years and bachelor’s programs typically take four years. Part-time courses of study extend the length of time of the degree program selected. After obtaining the RN licensure, a nurse must have 1,800 hours of direct experience in a post-anesthesia clinical setting in the two years prior to sit for the exam to become a Certified Post Anesthesia Nurse (CPAN®).
American Board of Perianesthesia Nursing Certification, Inc (ABPNC)
Type of Certification: Certified Post Anesthesia Nurse (CPAN)
Eligibility Requirements: a valid and unrestricted registered nurse license and 1,800 direct patient interaction hours in perianesthesia, which can include supervisory and clinical educational hours.
Certification Process: Registering online during the spring or fall registration window will result in an
authorization to test that is valid for one of the two six-week examination periods.
Fees: $424 for non-members
Renewal Process: Certification is valid for three years. Re-certify by retaking the exam or by earning 90 contact hours in direct and indirect perianesthestia care. When re-certifying through 90 contact hours, time should be split between direct and indirect care as follows:
- (60/30) on the first re-certification
- (45/45) on the second re-certification
- (unspecified) further re-certifications
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