Career Spotlight: Critical Care Nurse

Some people say critical care nurses are the everyday superheroes of the nursing world because they help patients heal from life-threatening illnesses and injuries. As the job title suggests, these nurses care for patients who are critically ill. The patients can range from newborn to geriatric, and they all suffer from life-threatening medical conditions or injuries. Because the patients they care for have such special needs, most critical care nurses work with only a few patients at a time.

Critical care nurses use specialized skills to assess and monitor their patients’ conditions to help them return to full health. They are responsible for caring for their patient, from giving medication to monitoring ventilator use, as well as constantly watching the patient for any changes in their status. These also use technology and constantly interact with a multidisciplinary health care team.

Critical Care Nurse Job Responsibilities

In the course of their daily job responsibilities, critical care nurses provide one-on-one care to patients. They provide all typical bedside care, with the addition of certain other responsibilities, which include:

  • Treating wounds and injuries
  • Caring for patients experiencing medical emergencies
  • Working other members of a patient’s care team
  • Administering medications
  • Infusing blood products
  • Monitoring patients for reactions to medication
  • Advocating on the patient’s behalf
  • Coordinating a patient’s transfer to another location
  • Performing administrative duties
  • Assessing patients as they are admitted to the critical care unit to identify their needs
  • Monitoring, recording, and evaluating vital signs
  • Tracking the operation and output of life support equipment
  • Cleaning and bandaging wounds
  • Assisting families as they make important end-of-life decisions
  • Critical care nurses can work in burn centers, trauma centers, operating rooms, emergency departments, neonatal intensive care units, pediatric units, and any place where patients require intensive care. Since these settings vary, some duties may differ. Here are just a few examples of settings and the specific job responsibilities found there:

    Pediatric ICU:

  • Care for critically ill children
  • Meet children’s physical and emotional needs
  • Collaborate with parents
  • Neonatal ICU

  • Provide specialized care to premature or sick newborns
  • Monitor infants’ progress and recovery
  • Teach parents how to care for their baby
  • Burn Care Unit

  • Treat and monitor burn wounds
  • Stabilize acutely burned patients
  • Assess physical, emotional, and psychological trauma
  • Educate patient’s family about ongoing care
  • Critical Care Nurse Qualifications

    Critical care nurses must have the knowledge, skills, experience, and compassion to do their job. They must be able to make quick decisions in the best interest of their patients. Some other skills necessary to succeed in this role are:

  • Excellent assessment skills
  • Strong organizational skills
  • Communication skills
  • Knowledge of anatomy and physiology
  • Knowledge of medications
  • Maturity and ability to handle end-of-life issues
  • Working knowledge of technology
  • Degrees Needed to Be A Critical Care Nurse

    In addition to the above, it is important to have the appropriate education to pursue a career as a critical care nurse. You need to earn either an associate degree in nursing or a Bachelor of Science in nursing.

    Specifically tailored for working nurses, Excelsior College’s online nursing degree programs are fully accredited, led by supportive instructors, and designed to help you succeed in your career. You can prepare to become a critical care nurse with an associate degree in nursing and then pass the NCLEX-RN, a bachelor’s degree especially for registered nurses, or a master’s degree in nursing.

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing positions are expected to increase approximately 9 percent by 2030, which means an additional 194,500 openings each year. Critical care nurse salaries vary greatly depending upon geographic location, experience, education, and more, but the national average salary for the position ranges between $67,691 and $81,623.

    If critical care nursing seems right for you, consider pursuing a higher education with Excelsior College today.