Critical Care Nursing

Emergency rooms, ICUs and other locations where critically ill patients are to be found need the expertise of Critical Care Nurses. These professionals are trained to act quickly, many times in life-or-death situations.

What is a Critical Care Nurse?

Critical care nurses, also known as intensive care unit nurses, are special types of nurses who work in the intensive care units of hospitals. Just like regular nurses, they are registered nurses. Critical nurses are focused on patients in the intensive care units of hospitals. They have specific job descriptions and have to undergo special training before they can work as critical nurses.

Critical care nurses are always sought after by hospitals around the country. Health care is becoming more and more advanced, driving up the number of critically ill patients who need expert care that only these types of nurses can provide.

A critically ill patient is described as someone who is at a high risk for potential or actual life-threatening health issues. The more a patient is critically sick, the higher the chances they are weaker, more unstable and complicated, making it very necessary for them to receive intense and specialized nursing care.

What Do They Do?

Critical care nurses accomplish their work in many types of environments, fulfilling roles that include nurse educators, bedside clinicians, medical researchers, nursing managers, nurse practitioners and clinical nurse specialists.

Because of the arrival of managed care and the added migration of patients to alternative environments, these nurses are taking care of patients who are considered iller than ever.

The nursing industry has seen how managed care has brought about an increasing demand for advanced practice nurses for critically ill patients. A nurse is considered an advanced practice nurse when they have completed advanced education at the masters or doctoral level. When it comes to critical care, these professionals are often acute care nurse practitioners (ACNP) or clinical nurse specialists (CNS).

The job of an ACNP in the critical care environment is to focus on clinical decision making while dealing with complex patient care. Their specific tasks include interpretation of diagnostic tests, appraising risks and giving medical treatment which can include prescribing medicine.

A CNS, on the other hand, is an expert clinician for the specific specialty of critical care. These nurses are responsible for the identification, management and intervention of clinical issues with the goal of improving care for patients and their families. A CNS gives direct patient care while doing assessment work, as well as diagnosing, planning and prescribing treatment – both pharmacological and nonpharmacological – of medical problems.

Where They Work

Based on a study conducted by the “The Registered Nurse Population”, about half of all nurses do their job in a hospital setting. Wherever critically ill patients are receiving or seeking treatment, critical care nurses are to be found.

These places include intensive care units, neonatal ICUs, pediatric ICUs, cardiac care units, telemetry units, cardiac catheter labs, emergency departments, recovery rooms and progressive care units.

There has been a rise in the number of critical care nurses who work in home healthcare, as well as in nursing schools, managed care organizations, outpatient surgery centers, and clinics.

How Much They Make

Based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data published on May 2014, critical care nurses have an average yearly salary of $97,990, with the bottom 10 percent of these professionals earning an average of $68,830 annually.

The top 10 percent of critical care nurses bring home an average of $131,050 per year. Thanks to the specialized nature of their jobs, along with their advanced education and vital daily tasks, critical care nurses usually earn more than their RN peers.

Anyone interested in becoming a critical care nurse should take into account that salary potential can vary based on your education, location, and experience. Conduct your own research to find out your specific earning potential.

How to Become a Critical Care Nurse

To become a Critical Care Nurse, a person must be a registered nurse (RN) beforehand with experience working in general patient care. Since there are plenty of complexities involved in critical patient care, plenty of employers looking for critical care nurses may prioritize hiring applicants who hold Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees. While you may find nurse education programs that offer courses in critical care, most professionals learn the most via field training while working in a hospital.

Plenty of critical care nurses opt to earn the Certified Critical Care Nurse (CCRN) designation which can be obtained through the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN).

What Else Can You Expect?

Critical care nurses do most of their work in emergency rooms, walk-in clinics, critical care wards, doctor offices and plenty other healthcare settings. Since the patients are treated 24/7, being a critical care nurse typically involves working in rotating shifts.

Expect to be called in on days, nights, holidays and weekends. The job of a critical care nurse is usually demanding on a physical level and will require lifting, stretching and bending.

What kind of Professional Nursing Organizations are associated with Critical Care Nurses?

Nursing organizations associated with Critical Care Nurses include American Association of Critical Care Nurses, Critical Care & Emergency Nurses Association and Society of Critical Care Medicine.

Related Careers within nursing

Other nursing jobs related to Critical Care Nursing that you may want to look into are Ambulatory Care Nurse, Burn Care Nurse, Cardiac Care Nurse, Emergency Nurse, Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse, Poison Information Specialist, and Trauma Nurse.