Critical Care Nursing Careers

Critical care nursing is the specialty in nursing which deals with the care of patients with life-threatening conditions. Nurses in this field have the responsibility to show vigilance and expertise to prevent complications and death. Responsibilities also include the patients’ families in their plans of care.

This field formally started in the 1950s out of the need to deliver the best care available for unstable patients. The idea was to have a nurse or group of nurses looking after the critically ill patient on a one-on-one basis. The focused nursing care using the most advanced health care technology was designed to deliver optimal care.

Traditionally, critical care nursing is practiced in hospitals. Every specialty department of a major hospital usually has its own critical care unit. These include adult intensive care units, neonatal and pediatric ICUs, cardiac care units and telemetry units. Nowadays, alternative settings such as outpatient and long-term care facilities also have critical care teams caring for patients.

The primary role of the nurse in this setting is that of patient advocate. This means the nurse should always uphold the rights and beliefs of the patient. The nurse looks out for the best interest of the patient. He or she should always be vigilant and prepared in case of an emergency. The nurse bases all actions on a specialized body of knowledge for critically ill patients. Collaboration with the patient, the patient’s family and other healthcare professionals is also vital.

As a clinician, the nurse is responsible for constant assessment, planning and implementation of the care plan. This plan requires the nurse to use sophisticated equipment and treatment modalities to complement nursing skills such as the administration of medications. Other important roles of the critical care nurse include being educators and researchers.

A registered nurse must first earn either an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) and then pass the NCLEX. Student nurses are typically exposed to the critical care environment as part of the curriculum. However, most of the skills and knowledge in this specialty can be provided by an employer.

New nurses will not be assigned to a critical care unit. Hospitals prefer staff to have a year or two of experience in general nursing floors. Once the nurse gets some experience, he or she can apply for a critical care position.

The trend towards managed care has driven the demand for advanced practice nurses in this field. Nurses who want to work in this area may choose to become acute care nurse practitioners (ACNP) or clinical nurse specialists (CNS).

Alternatively, nurses can opt to become certified instead of going for an advanced nursing practice degree. The American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN) requires nurses to work for two years in the setting before they can take the Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN) certification exam. Although not required, certification is preferred by employers because it validates the high level of knowledge by their nurses.

The nursing shortage is particularly severe in this area of nursing. Advances in healthcare practices and technology have made patient care more complex. This demanding environment requires nurses to keep up and to consistently perform at a high level.

This field of nursing practice is stressful and not for the faint of heart. It can take its toll on nurses who are less prepared physically, emotionally and psychologically. On the other hand, this field brings nurses to the forefront of healthcare technology. The fulfillment of caring for patients in life or death situations also makes this a worthwhile career option for nurses. In the future, there will be ample work challenges and opportunities in critical care nursing.

Latest Posts...

An Overview of Nurse Practioner Programs and Other Advanced Degrees

Nurse Practitioner Programs

NP or nurse practioner programs are for registered nurses who would like to become advanced practice nurses or APNs. Other APNs include the CRNA, the CNS and the CNM. All of these nurses have earned master’s degreee, the difference has to do with [...]

Read the full article →

The Advantages of ADN to MSN Programs

MSN Nursing Programs

ADN to MSN programs may be the right choice if you have your associate’s degree and want to earn your master’s in the shortest period of time possible. Both full- and part-time courses are available from a variety of institutions. Full-time [...]

Read the full article →

All About DNP Programs

Doctoral Nursing Programs

Doctor of Nursing Practice or DNP programs provide the necessary education for executives in the field. It is the right career for someone who enjoys administration or research. The time necessary to complete the program is 4-6 years. So there [...]

Read the full article →

Clinical Nurse Specialist Programs Offer Many Options

Nursing Education

Clinical nurse specialist programs include the courses necessary for registered nurses to attain an advanced degree in the medical specialty of their choosing. The fields of study are numerous. Some CNSs specialize in treating specific diseases, [...]

Read the full article →

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: