Critical care nursing is a specialty in nursing that is very complex and highly challenging.
These nurses most often work in an Intensive Care Unit, such as General Intensive Care, Cardiac Intensive Care, and Neonatal Intensive Care. These highly trained nurses treat patients of all ages. Their specific job scope covers a range of serious life threatening issues such as severe trauma, stroke, respiratory distress, heart attacks, or any other medical issue that is immediately life threatening which needs and requires immediate and intensive nursing care.
Some of the main duties and responsibilities that they are tasked with but not limited to are:
1: Assessing the patient’s condition and then with the assistance and overview of the attending physician, plan and implement various patient care plans.
2: Assist physicians in performing various medical procedures.
3: Treat wounds as needed.
4: Provide advanced life support using various medical equipment.
5: Monitor various medical equipment such as ventilators, heart monitors, e.t.c. to ensure they are working properly.
6: Ordering and / or performing various diagnostic tests on the patient.
7: Administer intravenous fluids and medications as ordered by the physician.
8: Consult and collaborate with other members of the Critical care team.
9: Provide care for pre- and post-operative patients.
10: Being a patient advocate.
11: Help educate and provide moral support to the patients’ family.
12: Serve as Case managers
13: Policy making
14: Perform various administrative duties.
16: Administer vascular catheters
17: Set up and implement various traction equipment.
18: Using various imaging systems such as ultrasound devices.
19: Proficient in computer skills and knowledge and proficiency of various medical software and information retrieval software.
Some of the requirements and qualifications to become a critical care nurse are that you must first complete the basic RN school with either an Associates degree or Bachelors degree. But given the complexity involved in this high specialty field, most employers as a matter of protocol, require the critical care nurse applicant to have at least a Bachelors degree of science in nursing.
Most employers also require that the applicant be trained and certified in Advanced Cardiac Life Support as well as Advanced Pediatric Life Support. And have at least one to two years in a critical care related setting.
In addition most dedicated critical care nurses take the Certified Critical Care Nurse (CCRN) exam offered by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses.
Due to the highly complex nature of Critical Care nursing, Critical Care nurses need to be very proficient in a very wide variety of high level nursing skill sets and should be near experts in being able to evaluate intensive care patients and be able to recognize any complications and coordinate with other members of the Critical Care team to ensure the patient is treated properly and quickly.
Critical care nurses have strong leadership skills and excel at strategic planning, interpersonal communications, quick and accurate decision making, and critical thinking.
Critical care nurses are not limited to just working in an ICU though, they can be found in a variety of medical facilities such as the Emergency room at the local hospital, critical care wards within the hospital, urgent care and walk in clinics, private practice doctors offices, various outpatient facilities, e.t.c.
Since illness or injuries happen around the clock, critical care nurses normally work rotating shifts which includes days, nights, weekends and holidays and being on call at least once a month.
Critical Care nursing often involves highly stressful situations and often times seems to move at the speed of light. This can lead to high levels of emotional distress and it is important for the critical care nurse to be able to cope with these issues when they are on duty in a professional and calm manner.
In some cases the emotional distress follows the nurse home where it may cause issues and if not checked appropriately can lead to serious personal issues, such as divorce or mental breakdowns.
The physical side to this job is equally as challenging as nurses need to be able to stand for long periods of time, lifting heavy people or medical equipment, repeated bending and or stretching movements.
With rapid advances in technology and medicine they are in high demand across the United States, especially in areas where there is an acute shortage of nurses with critical care skills.
One of the attributes of being one is that having this type of experience is also a requirement to becoming a Nurse Practitioner.
A few helpful tips to entry level registered nurses who desire to become a Certified Critical Care Nurse are that you should continue your medical education and perform your jobs well, as those will lead to promotions and get you a better chance of being assigned to an Intensive Care Unit or Coronary Care Unit which will give you the necessary hand on and time experience to become a fully Certified Critical Care Nurse. And again as stated above in the requirements section, you should also make it a priority goal to get your Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) and / or the Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) certifications as more and more employers are requiring that applicants have these two certifications to even be considered for a position.
As with all nursing jobs, your salary will vary on a number of factors. Some of those factors are location, the type of company and its size, your years of experience, and your level of education and certifications. As of December 2014, the following average salary numbers were the most common and typical for Critical Care Nurses:
On the low end and basically at the entry level side of things, they start out at around $56,000.00 per year. While on the upper end of the scale, salaries ranged from $80,000.00 to $85,000.00 per year. The annual median salary is right around the $69,000.00 mark.
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