What are ICU Nurses? A Tribute to Critical Care Nursing


This nurses week we’re taking a look at some of the individual specialties found throughout the world of nursing. Although each type of nurse has their distinct and important role in medicine, our focus today is critical care nursing or ICU nursing. With this tribute to critical care nursing, we’ll be exploring some of the unique aspects of these nursing jobs and how professionals rise to each and every challenge!

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critical care nursing

All too often, nurses deal with serious matters of life and death — and few professionals know this better than ICU nurses! When patients are in critical conditions, deemed to be unstable, or are unconscious with erratic vital signs, ICU nurses are usually the main nurses providing care and treatment. All things considered, critical care nursing demands nurses have top-notch and highly specialized training.

What do ICU Nurses Do?

Working in ICU nursing often means you’ll come up against major illnesses and injuries. Given the type of training a nurse had pursued, there is the potential for individuals to work in specialized areas like burn units or traumatic injury wards. Critical care nursing is one nursing specialty that is challenging both physically and emotionally, although the reward of providing that essential care is often well worth it to many!

Critical care nursing jobs present situations where losing a patient is just the harsh reality. Still, the nurses working in ICUs are there because they truly want to make the difference in the lives of patients and their families. The long hours and stressful work environments associated with critical care nursing aren’t for the faint of heart!

Nonetheless, critical care nurses provide much of the same basic care as other nursing professionals, with the exception of monitoring critical patients. Due to some of these patients being on the edge of life and death, recording vital signs several times an hour is standard practice. Any change in a patient’s vitals requires prompt reporting to primary care physicians or one’s charge nurse.

Where do Critical Care Nurses Work?

Critical care nursing jobs exist primarily in hospitals with intensive and critical care units as these facilities possess the right equipment and preparations. In many cases, these nurses act as liaisons to families as they explain medical procedures and treatment options. Otherwise, ICU nurses may work as transport nurses who accompany patients to better equipped or specialized medical facilities if necessary.

critical care nursing

How To Become an ICU Nurse

The specialized and intense nature of critical care nursing jobs means employers accept nothing less than Registered Nurses for their staffs. However, depending on the demand for nurses of this specialization, LPNs are also considered. In either case, these professionals are required to have a nursing diploma or degree, in addition to passing the appropriate nurse licensure exam. Generally, earning a bachelors degree takes the standard 4  years, with an additional two years to earn an MSN degree, or 4 additional years to acquire a Ph.D. or DNP.

It’s also not unheard of for most ICU nurses to work as traditional nurses before finding positions as critical care nurses. Before even attempting the Critical Care Registered Nurse certification exam, individuals are required to have at least two years of experience working in a critical care setting. For those with such experience, this examination is provided by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN).

As a tribute to critical care nursing, we’re taking this nurses week to recognize lots of the top nursing specialties out there and this one definitely makes the cut! Sometimes ICU nurses are the only people standing between a patient and their passing. When it really comes down to it, critical care nursing is a profession that is as heart-wrenching as it uplifting. For those who work in ICUs day in and day out, we salute and thank you during this 2018 Nurses Week and all other weeks of the year!

Author: Travel Nurse Source

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