Common PACU Nursing Interview Questions & Answers

So you've applied to countless PACU positions online.

Sent (what seems like) thousands of CVs across the various links and portals, and now (at last) you have the interview for the PACU job of your dreams.

You're over the moon, but the hard work is not over; you haven't been offered the position yet.

To help, I've prepared some common interview questions and answers to give you an advantage in the interviewing process.

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Common PACU Nursing Interview Questions & Answers

1. Why do you want to work in the PACU?

nurses working in post operative unit

How you answer this question lets the interviewer know you have insight into what the position entails.

A good answer here shows that you have done your research or have some actual experience in this position and will be a good fit for the unit.

Example Answer

“I love being a part of the Perioperative team and looking after patients when they are most vulnerable.

Recovering after anesthetic can be scary and uncomfortable, and I can make sure that they experience as little discomfort as possible.”

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2. How would you rate your work ethic?

It seems a strange question to ask, but by asking it, the interviewer assesses the level of your commitment to work and how you prioritize the different aspects of your life.

To impress, you may say something that shows your character and convinces the interviewer that you're a good fit for this position.

Example Answer

“I would rate my work ethic as good because I prioritize work over other aspects in my life. I always strive to do my best and work to get excellent results in everything I do.

I have been praised in the past for being dependable and going above and beyond what is expected when the need arises. I think I will be a good addition to your PACU unit.”

3. Would you be prepared to work an evening shift?

working night shift hospital

PACU may get busy, especially when surgeries run late into the evening or many emergencies come in at once.

It's not an everyday occurrence, but the unit must be prepared for those times. Managers need to see they can depend on staff to stay after working hours if needed.

To answer this question, you could say something like this:

Example Answer

“I am prepared to put a hundred percent of commitment into my work, so when the situation calls for it, I will be able to stay on and work a nightshift.

The Perioperative team must work together to make sure we provide good care to our patients, so I will be a part of it and help wherever I can.”

4. How do you handle stress in the workplace?

stressed nurse sitting

This question is quite common for candidates for a PACU position because working with a surgical team is very stressful.

It also shows the interviewer how you communicate and whether you know how to handle uncomfortable situations.

Don't try to brush it off by telling the interviewer that stress does not affect you.

They know that everyone gets stressed from time to time, and if you give a flippant answer, it may count against you.

Example Answer

“When I get stressed, I do a couple of things.

First, when I am in the middle of a stressful situation, I try to take a few deep breaths to release the anxiety and get through whatever is happening.

Later, once everything has calmed down, I go to my supervisor or my mentor to discuss the situation calmly and get another opinion on whether I have handled the situation correctly or whether I should do something else next time this happens.

This way, I learn how to handle future stressful situations better.”

5. Where do you see your career in PACU in five years?

Most interviewers want to know that the new employee will not leave the post next month.

It's expensive to replace staff continuously, and you can put their mind at ease by letting them know your personal career goals fit the company goals.

Perhaps try saying something like this…

Example Answer

“I would like to gain experience at the PACU unit in your hospital and in a year, or two enroll for the PACU Nursing Certification so that I can develop my knowledge and skills to provide competent care to patients.

I am passionate about the anesthesia and post-anesthesia field of nursing, and I see myself becoming a senior PACU nurse and hopefully will be able to pass on my knowledge to younger nurses who are just starting their careers. I

see myself working for your hospital for many years.”

6. Why should we hire you?

medical professionals interview a young woman for nursing position

When an interviewer asks you this question, they want to know what skills will set you apart from other nurses applying for this position.

To make a good impression, you need to emphasize your strengths and connect how hiring you will benefit the PACU unit.

Example Answer

“I am passionate about PACU because I feel that patients recovering from anesthesia need someone empathetic and skillful to look after their wellbeing.

I am a dependable, hardworking person and want to continue my development as a nurse in the PACU unit as I feel that this is the best fit for me.

If hired, I will continue to use my compassion, insight, and skills to provide excellent patient care.

Find Your Next Nursing Job

Use our nursing job board to start looking for and applying to great nursing jobs near you.

7. How will you tell if your patient is developing any post-anesthesia complications when they are still unresponsive? What would you do in that situation?

nurses caring for patients in PACU

This is a skills test question to ascertain whether you have sufficient knowledge to provide safe care in the post anesthesia care unit.

Example Answer


“Before patients regain consciousness, you assess them by observing their vital signs. I listen to their breathing and assess the depth of respiration as well as the respiration rate.

I observe their skin for signs of cyanosis or sweating. Cyanosis may occur when the patients are not getting enough oxygen, and cold, clammy skin will signify that the patient is going into shock.

I will observe the wound site and the drains for any signs of bleeding from the surgical site.

If any of these signs are present, I will notify the anesthesia provider and the surgeon to make sure correct treatment is initiated.”

8. Describe a time you were involved in a conflict with other healthcare team members.

conflict between two women

This is a difficult question.

You need to clearly describe a situation when you were involved in a conflict without being overly negative about the other person.

If you are too negative, you won't make a good impression on the interviewer.

The best way to approach this answer is to describe the situation, state who was involved (don't mention anyone by name) and finish with what you learned from the situation.

Example Answer


“One time, my patient was fully awake and orientated. His vital signs were stable and within normal limits, and the patient was ready for discharge from the PACU.

It is customary for the surgeon to sign off on the patient's discharge to the general ward, but the surgeon was busy with his next surgery.

I went into the operating room to tell him that my patient was ready for discharge and asked whether I could do that.

The surgeon felt that I should have waited until he finished operating before I asked him that and reported me to the supervisor.

When the supervisor asked me about it, I explained that I felt the patient was well enough to be transferred to the ward, and I wanted to let the surgeon know.


We had other patients coming into the unit, and I did not want to spend time with this patient when he did not need it.”

9. What is your expected salary?

nurse holding euro money

To make sure you answer this question well, you need to find out beforehand the average salaries for PACU nurses in your area so you can confirm the salary offered by the employer is fair.

Try to avoid mentioning any figures in your answer. Rather say something like this…

Example Answer

“I don't know the exact salary the hospital will offer, but I feel that my remuneration should be on par with the average pay for this position according to my qualifications.”

10. Do you have any questions?

It's up to you to clarify anything unclear about the job offer and ask the interviewer questions to make sure this position fits your career plans.

You can ask questions about any job details, like the institution policy on the orientation period, any possibilities for rotation between the departments, or any further education offered to employees.

Example Answer

Other questions you may want to ask are:

  • “How many nurses work on each shift in the unit?”
  • “How will the onboarding process work?”
  • “Does the hospital support staff studying further, and are there any professional development programs offered?”
  • “What did other employees do to succeed in this position?

Find Your Next Nursing Job

Use our nursing job board to start looking for and applying to great nursing jobs near you.

Have You Read This Yet?

Frequently Asked Questions

To prepare for a PACU interview, make sure you study the typical interview questions a hiring manager might ask you. For instance, you might get asked questions about the company's mission statement. Besides that, make sure to get plenty of rest before the interview and show up on time.

PACU means post-anesthesia care unit.

Working as a PACU nurse is a challenging job that is often stressful. But just because it's stressful doesn't mean it's a bad job. Many nurses continue working in the post-anesthesia care unit even though it's stressful because they like the difference they're making.

Here are some of the qualities you'll need working in the PACU:

  • Positive attitude
  • Ability to communicate effectively
  • Problem solver
  • Good interpersonal skills

This is one of the more common PACU nurse interview questions. You want to answer this question by turning a weakness into a strength and how you're actively bettering yourself.