Duties of a recovery nurse

Updated April 17, 2017

A recovery nurse is responsible for caring for patients at hospitals and outpatient clinics before, during and after surgery. A recovery nurse must keep a careful watch on patients because of the risks involved with anaesthesia and surgery. She also must maintain a nurturing environment to ease the concerns of patients and their families.

Initial care

A recovery nurse prepares patients for surgery by checking vital signs, administering medication, drawing blood and specimens, and documenting symptoms and concerns for a surgeon or attending physician. The recovery nurse communicates any problematic findings to physicians.

Primary duties

A recovery nurse must be able to respond to emergencies quickly and efficiently. In critical situations, he may need to begin emergency resuscitation or call for help from fellow nurses and physicians. In non-emergency situations, her primary duty is to comfort patients after surgery or anaesthesia. A recovery nurse may need to change IV lines, administer pain medication, adjust bedding, help patients walk and collect specimens for further testing. In addition, recovery nurses monitor each patient’s progress to evaluate whether the patient is ready to be moved to a permanent room or discharged.

Patient discharge

Patients recovering from surgery need guidance for follow-up treatment at home. The recovery nurse is responsible for providing written instructions for patients who will be discharged. The nurse discusses risks and procedures with patients and family members to ensure that patients are comfortable with the recovery process.


A recovery nurse is a registered nurse who has earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing and passed state licensing tests. Some states may require clinical hours as part of a nursing education program. Most surgical centres and hospitals want previous experience. Many recovery nurses complete internships to gain this experience.

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About the Author

Shannon Philpott has been a writer since 1999. She has experience as a newspaper reporter, magazine writer and online copywriter. Philpott has published articles in St. Louis metro newspapers, "Woman's World" magazine, "CollegeBound Teen" magazine and on e-commerce websites, and also teaches college journalism and English. She holds a Master of Arts in English from Southern Illinois University.