How to Become a Critical Care Nurse

A critical care nurse is a professional who deals with seriously ill patients in the intensive care unit. They do not only care for the patients, but also help doctors administer treatment and monitor the conditions of the patients. The service of critical care nurses is highly important and can mean the difference between success and failure of a medical endeavor. In some cases, they can also save the lives of patients. As such, a career in critical nursing can be very stressful and requires extraordinary commitment and genuine passion to help others. Although it is a challenging job, it can also bring great fulfillment. If you wish to become a nurse, it is advantageous to know exactly what the job entails.

Job Profile

The duties of a critical care nurse include caring for patients, checking and monitoring the vital signs of patients, administering appropriate medicines and helping doctors perform treatments. As a critical nurse, your job is more pressurizing than that of a regular nurse as a result of the critical nature of the illnesses of the patients under your care. When critical symptoms show, you must act in an efficient manner to ensure that the appropriate treatment will be administered as soon as possible. You also have to work with many different kinds of medical equipment, including life support systems.

What It Takes to Become a Critical Care Nurse

To become a successful nurse, you must be very attentive as you will be required to provide information regarding patients to the doctors. You are responsible for detecting symptoms in patients and must be constantly prepared for the unexpected as life-threatening symptoms may present at anytime. It is also important that you possess strong knowledge of medications and treatment methods, as well as their effects on patients. You will be required to work closely with doctors and must be prepared to work long hours when emergencies occur. Attention to detail, a strong will and calmness are some of the traits that you need to possess to excel in the field of critical care nursing.

Education Requirements

An education in nursing is a must for anyone who wishes to become a critical care nurse. There are many schools that offer excellent nursing courses and programs that are appropriate for a critical nursing career. If you want to learn the basics of nursing, you can opt for a diploma or Associate Degree in nursing. A Bachelor’s Degree or Master’s Degree in nursing will prepare you for greater career advancement, making you eligible for top critical care nursing positions in the best medical facilities. Typically, nursing programs cover areas of study such as human anatomy, illnesses, medications, and nursing procedures. After obtained the required nursing education, you must obtain an advanced practice certification or a cardiac care certification before you seek employment.

Career Opportunities and Salary

Critical care nurses are in high demand nowadays and you can be assured that you win a great position once you have graduated from nursing school. Most critical care nurses work in hospitals, but there are some who work in nursing schools, outpatient surgery centers, clinics, nursing schools and private homes. With enough experience serving as a critical care nurse, you can get promoted to become a nurse practitioner, or you can even opt to become a professor in a nursing school. The average salary for a critical care nurse is $65,000 a year which may change based on the individuals drive and experience.

Critical Care Nursing Career Tips

Critical care nursing is the specialty within the nursing profession that ensures the delivery of optimal care to acutely and critically ill patients. Critically ill patients are patients who are at high risk for actual or potential life threatening health problems. These patients are highly vulnerable, unstable, and have complex healthcare needs that require vigilant and intense nursing care.

These types of nurses and nurse practitioners are essential in intensive care units (ICUs), including medical, surgical, pediatric and neonatal ICUs, cardiac care units, cardiac catheter labs, telemetry units, progressive care units, emergency departments, and recovery rooms. Critical care nurses are also part of medical evacuation and transport teams.

In the United States, most critical care nurses are registered nurses; because of the unpredictable nature of the patient population, licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) rarely assume the primary care role in caring for critically ill patients.

Registered nurses can obtain certification in critical care nursing through the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACCN), an advisory board that sets and maintains standards for critical care nurses. This certification, known as the CCRN, describes the holder as a certified critical care nurse for adult, pediatric and neonatal patient populations.

Several subspecialties of this type of nursing can be found in units composed of similarly aged patients. These subspecialties are in the following areas:

• Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, also called Nursery ICU or NICU. The NICU’s patients are primarily newborn and premature infants who are cared for until they reach the gestational age of one month. After this period, their care will be assumed by the Pediatric Intensive Care unit.
• Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, or PICU. Here, the patients are about one month to eighteen years of age.
• Adult Intensive Care, or ICU, takes care of patients who are beyond eighteen.

There may, however, be deviations from the above setup, such as sending newborns who get admitted in the Emergency Department to the PICU, rather than the NICU. There may be rare cases where an adult patient with congenital heart disease will be admitted to the PICU, as their current treatment is a continuation of treatment they had been receiving from their physicians since they were children.

Care subspecialties may also be based on the type of disorder, disease or primary injury of the patient population. For example, the Adult Intensive Care Unit may have a specialized unit for trauma patients called the Adult Trauma Intensive Care Unit.

There is a variety of equipment used in the critical setting with which intensive care nurses need to be thoroughly familiar. These include hemodynamic and cardiac monitoring systems, mechanical ventilator therapy, intro-aortic balloon pumps, ventricular assist devices, continuous renal replacement equipment, and other advanced life support devices. All of these are at the critical care nurse’s disposal when providing medical intervention to the critically ill.

With advances in healthcare and technology, medical conditions previously described as critical can now be treated outside the critical units. Nonetheless. critical care nurses continue to keep abreast with new treatment methods and technologies in this growing profession.