What I’ve Learnt: Recovery

For anyone who’s had to is going to have a placement, or even spend a little time in recovery (or PACU for those who want its real name), here’s some of the things that I learnt.

A to E

All day, every day. If you ever want somewhere to practice your A to E to death, this is the place.

It ain’t like the movies

The over-dramatic post anaesthesia phase where the patient lurches off the table and grabs the nurse you see in movies is definitely not a thing. There’s very little shouting and screaming, and no-one pulls out their own catheter (although some cannula’s are harmed however…).

Most patients will wake up, say hi, then doze off again. Some may take a bit longer and require a tad more poking, it really varies.

Deepest, darkest secrets

Also unlike the movies, patients don’t tell you all their secrets when they wake up and very rarely do they embarrass themselves in anyway. Most just go back to sleep.


Recovery is where I realised that the WHO analgesia ladder is just a guideline and sometimes its okay to skip a few steps, especially after a surgeon has made a really big hole in a someone. Some analgesia’s are also better for different procedures, with some responding better to NSAIDs or opiates.

There are different types of pain

Patients have very different pain experiences, a lot of which depends on kind of surgery that they’ve had. Also on whether or not the patient has received a nerve block can be a big factor, as well as their opiate tolerance.


Any patient that has undergone a laparoscopic procedure may experience pain in their neck and/or side. This is caused by gases entering the body in places they wouldn’t normally due to the introduction of the ports and scopes during surgery.


They will probably pull this out themselves. This is totally fine, just mop up all the saliva that comes up with it.

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