CO2 monitoring education improves nurses’ confidence

Phillip Atherton.

Published June 24, 2022

PICU nurses can provide better care for post-surgical patients when they learn capnography, says UB nurse anesthesia graduate.


Phillip Atherton, DNP ’22, was published in the June 2022 issue of the Journal of Perianesthesia Nursing. His study, “An Educational Intervention to Improve Comfort with Applying and Interpreting Transcutaneous CO2 and End-tidal CO2 Monitoring in the PACU,” evaluated an educational program about ventilation with devices that measure carbon dioxide levels in patients recovering from surgery.

According to the authors – which include Carla Jungquist, PhD, ANP-BC, FAAN, associate professor, and Cheryl Spulecki, DNAP, RN, CRNA, ACNP, FAANA, clinical assistant professor – “Respiratory complications in the postanesthesia care unit (PACU) are a significant cause of morbidity and mortality” and “clinically appropriate monitoring in the PACU is critical to avoid missing or delaying a diagnosis, treatment or prevention of adverse respiratory events.”

The authors surveyed current members of the American Society of PeriAnesthesia Nurses before and after an educational presentation. The goal of the presentation is to improve confidence in using capnography (CO2 monitoring) for care of PACU patients.

Capnography, according to the authors, is a “noninvasive measurement of the partial pressure of carbon dioxide (PaCO2) throughout the respiratory cycle” and is used in surgical, emergency and critical care settings. It provides valuable information about a patient’s ventilation, perfusion and metabolism.

The post-survey revealed that registered nurses had a significant increase in confidence in applying and interpreting capnography after the educational presentation. The authors conclude that capnography should be a standard part of PACU patient care, and that the education of PACU nurses is important before implementing CO2 monitoring.

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