by James Coburn, Staff Writer
Andrea Hampton says she loves PACU so much because she constantly must be on her toes ready for something to happen. PACU is the post anesthesia care unit of a hospital.
“You have to be prepared to move quickly and respond quickly,” said Hampton, RN, nurse manager for PACU and outpatient surgery on the phase II side as well as the pain center of OCOM (Oklahoma Center for Orthopedic Multispecialty), located in Oklahoma City.
PACU is the department that receives patients following their surgery. It is the most critical time for whenever somebody is coming out of anesthesia because their bodies are reacting to the anesthesia.
Hampton earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree nine years ago after attending the University of Oklahoma. After receiving her license, she worked in the neonatal intensive care center at OU Medical Center. Two years later she transferred to the adult PACU (post anesthesia care unit) at OU and worked there for a year.
“Because I went from NICU to the adults it was wild,” she said. “I then opened the surgery center at OU Medical Center. It’s a stand-alone building. I opened it with another nurse and after working there for a year, I switched to OCOM. And I’ve been here at OCOM for almost six years.”
Hampton manages 25-30 employees and staffs them daily, monthly. She fills in as a staff nurse by their sides when needed.
“I’m basically the problem solver. I figure out what issues need to be taken care of as far as patient care, and/or staffing responsibilities,” she said.
Hampton said she is completely invested in OCOM’s quaint environment. It’s small enough where everyone knows everyone else on the staff, Hampton said. The south-side location where she works staffs about 150 employees.
“Everyone pretty much knows everyone. That’s housekeeping through administration. Our CEO, CNO and CFO are all right down the hall from PACU,” she said. “So if we ever need anything we just call them and they’re at our bedsides.”
Hampton said this is different from larger mega hospitals, where a nurse oftentimes must make an appointment to see them. The CNO has helped Hampton wheel patients to the car when the staff is having an unusually busy day.
“When you go to a big hospital, you’re not going to see something like that,” she said.
Hampton admires the team spirit of the nursing staff in her department as well as other departments. She can go to another manager and say, “I’m short-staffed today. People have called in and I’m taking patients. Can your nurse help take over my needs whenever there is a drop off?”
Education geared to the patient and their family members begins at the start. OCOM is a smaller facility, so therefore they work well together.
“The patients see that from pre-op all the way back to the operating room,” Hampton said. “We do a really good job at managing each other, meaning who it is who’s going to be taking over, and the same thing whenever they go into the PACU. We’re there to give whatever needs it is.”
Each patient receives a head to toe assessment. Blood pressure and blood loss is monitored carefully, Hampton said. Pain control is a consideration. Once the patient is discharged for outpatient status, the nurses continue to educate the families who are with them all aspects about future expectations. If there are any question, the nurses will reassure them 24 hours a day, Hampton said.
“If we can’t answer questions, we’ll be able to get hold of your doctor to get those questions answered,” she said.
The majority of OCOM patients are laid back, she said. They go with the flow. This makes the nursing staff’s job easier, Hampton said. When a patient sees a nurse having a good time, it makes caring for the patient easier to manage, she added.
“They trust us and they know we’re here for them,” she said.
Nurses receive a lot of “thank you” recognition when the hospital does a lot of post-operative phone calls to check on a patient’s status.
“Usually they will tell us how amazing our facility was,” she said. “And it’s very rare that we hear anything about a bad experience. They tell us how they will recommend us to anyone.”
Her wind-down period of the day is when she leaves work to pick-up her two children. She will listen to music, work out in the mornings, and takes out her previous frustration for the previous day when exercising.
“That kind of helps me jump start, and makes me be able to tackle anything that arises,” she said.