nurse61-300x199Patients in critical condition are often deemed to be unstable, often unconscious, with erratic or extremely unhealthy vital signs. Many of these patients could also possibly be close to death. Because of this, the care that critical patients receive should be top-notch and highly specialized.

Although physicians and specialists attend to the primary needs and treatments of patients in critical condition, it is often the critical care nurses that attend to these patients’ daily needs.

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What is a Critical Care Nurse?
What do Critical Care Nurses Do?
Where do Critical Care Nurses Work?
How do I Become a Critical Care Nurse?

What is a Critical Care Nurse?

A critical care nurse, also sometimes referred to as an ICU nurse, is a type of nurse that provides care to patients that are in critical condition. These types of nurses may care for adults or children recovering from serious medical problems including illnesses and injuries. Some critical care nurses also work in wards or units that take care of patients only with specific medical problems, such as critical care burn units.

Critical care nurses are some of the most in demand nurses in this field. The long hours and stressful work environments often make this career extremely challenging and both physically and emotionally. It takes a very special type of person to be a successful critical care nurse.

Education and training are not the only requirements that you should have if you’re looking to become a critical care nurse. These types of nurses should have excellent communication skills as well as the ability to assess patients make decisions quickly.

As a career, critical care nursing can also be very emotionally draining and heart wrenching. Critical care nurses are often faced with the harsh reality of losing patients every now and again, despite their best efforts. If you’re looking into a career in this nursing specialty, you should be able to deal with loss in a fairly quick and healthy manner.

What do Critical Care Nurses Do?

It could be said that critical care nurses have the same basic duties and responsibilities as both traditional staff nurses and emergency nurses. They provide much of the basic care for critical patients, and assist physicians and specialists with monitoring and treating these patients.

As a critical care nurse, you will be responsible for monitoring your critical patients. Since these patients are often literally on the edge, you may be required to take and record data such as vital signs and blood oxygen levels several times each hour. This is typically accomplished with a variety of bedside monitoring equipment, including bedside monitors and hand-held vital sign monitoring equipment.

Any change – good or bad – in your patients’ conditions should promptly be reported to their primary care physicians or your charge nurse, so their treatments can be adjusted according to their progression or decline. You may be called upon to assess patients quickly, particularly if they are not responding favorably to a certain treatment, and possibly adjust their treatment options yourself. Should the worst happen, you should also be skilled in a number of life saving techniques, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and know how to use life saving equipment, such as defibrillators.

Communication with patients’ loved ones is another important aspect of the job. Critical care nurses are frequently the people that most loved ones communicate during these difficult times. you should be prepared to explain medical procedures and treatments, update loved ones on patients’ conditions, and at times even inform them of the worst.

Where do Critical Care Nurses Work?

The majority of critical care nurses work in hospitals with intensive and critical care units. A handful of critical care nurses, however, may work as transport nurses, accompanying patients in critical condition to more well-equipped medical facilities.

How do I Become a Critical Care Nurse?

Typically, the majority of critical care nursing employers will accept nothing less than Registered Nurses (RN) for their staffs. However, depending on the demand for these types of nurses, some facilities may consider hiring Licensed Practical Nurses. These careers typically involve earning a nursing diploma or degree and passing the appropriate nurse licensure exam.

Below is the educational path for a Critical Care Nurse (lowest to highest level of education)

Educational TrackSchool ProgramsAverage Education LengthChoosing Online or Campus
Earn a Bachelors DegreeView Programs4 Years Online or Campus
Earn a MSN DegreeView Programs2 Additional YearsOnline or Campus
Earn a PHD or DNPView Programs2-4 Additional YearsOnline or Campus

You might first need to gain a couple of years experience as a traditional nurse before working as a critical care nurse. Once you’ve landed a position in a critical care unit, you’ll then need to gain at least two years of experience in a critical care setting before you can sit for the Critical Care Registered Nurse certification examination, which is administered by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACCN).

Additional Resources For Critical Care Nursing

  1.  American Association of Critical Care Nursing
  2.  ICU Faqs
  3.  Society Of Critical Care Medicine