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The recovery room, which is generally located near the operating room, has accommodations for a group of surgical patients who are under the continuous surveillance of highly skilled personnel. These patients are taken to the recovery room after surgery. There, the nurses check on the patient's condition continuously. The majority of the recovery room nurse's time is spent at the bedside rendering direct patient care. The observation of a patient cannot be completed from any other location. When the patient has fully recovered from the anesthesia and there is no evidence of complications, he is prepared to return to the nursing unit. This lesson will include the knowledge and skills required by the practical nurse to care for a surgical patient in the recovery room.


a. Airway. A passageway through which air normally circulates. A device that is inserted through the patient's mouth to maintain the patency of an air passage such as the trachea.

b. Anoxia. A reduction in, or lack of, oxygen.

c. Coma. A state of being unconscious or unresponsive to stimuli.

d. Conscious. A state of being awake, responsive, and alert.

e. Disoriented. A state of being confused; lack of response or inappropriate response to stimuli.

f. Dyspnea. Difficult and labored breathing in which the patient has a persistent unsatisfied need for air and feels distressed.

g. Embolism. The obstruction of a blood vessel by a foreign substance due to an air bubble, fat globule, or purulent matter of blood clot.

h. Embolus. An embolism floating in the blood stream.

i. Hypoventilation. A state in which there is a decreased or reduced volume of air taken into the lungs.

j. Hypoxemia. Low oxygen content in the blood.

k. Hypoxia. A decrease on the supply of oxygen to cells of the body.

l. Lethargic. A condition of drowsiness or indifference.

m. Pallor. The absence of the skin coloration or paleness.

n. Semiconscious. A state of being able to respond to physiological stimuli, but capable only of reduced response to mental stimuli.

o. Suction. The act of sucking up (or drawing up) by reducing air pressure and creating a partial vacuum.

p. Unconscious. A state of being unaware and unresponsive to all stimuli.


David L. Heiserman, Editor

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Revised: June 06, 2015