Critical care nursing is a specialized field within the broader discipline of nursing that focuses on the care of patients who are critically ill or experiencing life-threatening conditions.
Critical care nurses are typically in charge of patients who usually require close monitoring and intensive medical interventions. The nurses are responsible for providing round-the-clock care to patients who are suffering from life-threatening illnesses or injuries. The goal of critical care nursing is to stabilize and support the patient’s vital functions, prevent complications, and promote recovery.
The Role of Critical Care Nursing
- To provide intensive monitoring and treatment to patients who are in need of constant attention and care. These patients may be experiencing a wide range of medical conditions, including heart failure, respiratory failure, severe infections, or trauma. Critical care nurses are trained to provide advanced life support and to manage complex medical devices and equipment, such as ventilators, cardiac monitors, and intravenous (IV) drips.
- Critical care nurses must possess the ability to quickly and accurately assess patients and identify changes in their condition. Patients in critical care units often experience rapid changes in vital signs, such as blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen saturation levels, and it is essential for nurses to be able to respond quickly to these changes and take appropriate actions.
- Critical care nurses must be effective communicators. They work closely with other members of the healthcare team to develop and implement treatment plans for their patients. Effective communication is essential to ensure that all team members are aware of the patient’s condition and the treatments being administered.
- Educating patients and their families about their medical conditions and treatments: critical care nurses may provide information about medications, medical procedures, and home care instructions to help patients and their families understand the course of treatment and manage their condition after discharge.
Education and Training
The education and training required to become a critical care nurse vary by country and jurisdiction. Regardless, to become a critical care nurse, individuals must first obtain a nursing degree, either an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). After completing their nursing degree, they must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to become licensed to practice nursing in their state.
Many critical care nurses also pursue advanced education and certification in critical care nursing. The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) offers a certification program for critical care nurses, which requires a minimum of two years of experience in critical care nursing and the successful completion of an exam.
Job Outlook and Salary: Critical care nurses work in a variety of settings, including hospital intensive care units (ICUs), emergency departments, cardiac catheterization labs, and post-anesthesia care units. They also work in transport teams that provide critical care during patient transport. Critical care nurses work closely with other healthcare professionals, including physicians, respiratory therapists, physical therapists, and pharmacists, to provide comprehensive care to their patients.
The average annual wage for registered nurses was $75,330 as of May 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, salaries for critical care nurses may vary depending on factors such as experience, location, and level of education.
Critical care nursing requires a high level of dedication, compassion, and skill, and those who pursue this career path make a significant contribution to the healthcare system.
Top critical care nursing schools in the United States
- University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing
- Johns Hopkins School of Nursing
- University of California San Francisco School of Nursing
- Duke University School of Nursing
- University of Michigan School of Nursing
- Emory University Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing
- Columbia University School of Nursing
- University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing
- University of Washington School of Nursing
- Yale School of Nursing