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Module 10: The Recovery Room Phase

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The Recovery Room

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The Recovery Room

The recovery room is defined as a specific nursing unit, which accommodates patients who have undergone major or minor surgery. Following the operation, the patient is carefully moved from the operating table to a wheeled stretcher or bed and transferred to the recovery room. The patient usually remains in the recovery room until he begins to respond to stimuli.
The postoperative phase lasts from the patient's admission to the recovery room through the complete recovery from surgery.

Learning Outcomes:

After completing this short lesson, the learner should be able to:

Cite the Nursing Care Goals of the Recovery Room.

Identify nursing implications related to the general care of a patient in the recovery room.

General nursing goals of care for a patient in the recovery room are:
(1) To support the patient through his state of dependence to independence. Surgery traumatizes the body, decreasing its energy and resistance. Anesthesia impairs the patient's ability to respond to environmental stimuli and to help himself. An artificial airway is usually maintained in place until reflexes for gagging and swallowing return. When the reflexes return, the patient usually spits out the airway. Position the unconscious patient with his head to the side and slightly down. This position keeps the tongue forward, preventing it from blocking the throat and allows mucus or vomitus to drain out of the mouth rather than down the respiratory tree. Do not place a pillow under the head during the immediate postanesthetic stage. Patients who have had spinal anesthetics usually lie flat for 8 to 12 hours. The return of reflexes indicates that anesthesia is ending. Call the patient by name in a normal tone of voice and tell him repeatedly that the surgery is over and that he is in the recovery room.
(2) To relieve the patient's discomfort. Pain is usually greatest for 12 to 36 hours after surgery, decreasing on the second and third post-op day. Analgesics are usually administered every 4 hours the first day. Tension increases pain perception and responses, thus analgesics are most effective if given before the patient's pain becomes severe. Analgesics may be administered in patient controlled infusions.
(3) Early detection of complications. Most people recover from surgery without incident. Complications or problems are relatively rare, but the recovery room nurse must be aware of the possibility and clinical signs of complications.
(4) Prevention of complications. Complications that should be prevented in the recovery room are respiratory distress and hypovolemic shock.
b. The difference between the recovery room and surgical intensive care are:
(1) The recovery room staff supports patients for a few hours until they have recovered from anesthesia.
(2) The surgical intensive care staff supports patients for a prolonged stay, which may last 24 hours or longer.