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Nancy Palo, RN, is often the first face patients see when they wake up from anesthesia after surgery at UMass Memorial – HealthAlliance Hospital. "No two days are alike," Nancy said. "It's different patients, different surgeries. I can see a six-month-old baby in the morning and a 100-year-old man in the afternoon. When patients are coming out of anesthesia, you have to use critical-thinking skills and be able to react quickly. There is no typical day."
Nancy began her nursing career 42 years ago after graduating from Leominster Hospital School of Nursing. She has served the last 34 years in the PACU. In addition to serving as a bedside nurse, Nancy is frequently the charge nurse on the unit, assigning patients to other nurses. "We're a tight-knit group here," she said. "We're very supportive of each other, and we have a great management team. We also work closely with the anesthesiologists and surgeons. We have a good rapport and mutual respect. It takes a team."
Nancy began working in emergency department and critical care nursing, developing the skills and stamina needed to serve in the PACU. Her colleagues describe her as "a team leader" and "a true champion" dedicated to quality patient care. The best part of the job, she says, is helping ease patients through post-operative recovery to move on to the next step in their journey.
"Patients can wake up disoriented, cold, and in pain," she said. "The most satisfying part of the job is using my nursing and pain management skills, and a little TLC, to get them comfortable and smiling and ready for discharge to home or a hospital room." Nancy lives in the area, and patients often recognize her from the community or because she's worked in the PACU for so long. "Patients say, You're still here! and It's good to wake up to a familiar face."
Nancy enjoys sharing her knowledge and experience with her fellow caregivers. Though she's senior in her nursing career, she's still learning new things. "Every patient gives me a new little piece of understanding," she said. "It helps me do a better job and be a better nurse."