One of the most intense, stressful things that can happen in someone’s life is to find out a loved one is in the hospital in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). When our loved ones are seriously sick or injured, we can only hope that the best of the best are caring for them. Critical care nurses are the angels of the hospital. They care for patients where life is sometimes hanging on by a thread. It takes an extraordinary nurse to care for someone at their weakest. In this article, we will discuss the things that critical care nurses do during a 12-hour shift. We will also discuss the skills and certifications that nurses interested in this field should acquire to care for patients in dire situations.
Critical care nurses are primarily responsible for continually monitoring a patient’s condition and being aware of subtle changes that may show signs of improvement or deterioration. These nurses work with a comprehensive healthcare management team that includes doctors, respiratory therapy, and case management to ensure proper care for these sensitive patients.
Critical care nurses also are in charge of all bedside care for ICU patients. They are experts in assessment, intravenous access, and infusion, including central line maintenance, medication administration, tracheotomy, and ventilation care. Keeping a running log of patients’ care and status is also an essential part of critical care nursing. Also, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, as well as advanced cardiac life support skills, are crucial in the field of critical care nursing.
Educational requirements for Critical care nurses include having a valid registered nursing license (most institutions require a BSN). Certification in ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) is also required. Most hospitals prefer a nurse to have at least two years of medical-surgical nursing under their belts before applying for a critical care nursing position. Some teaching hospitals, however, have new graduate preceptorships to train nurses for critical care. The American Association of Critical Care Nursing Certification Corporation offers certification in critical care or cardiac medicine for nurses working in this field.
There are several core competencies that any nurse considering critical care should possess. Excellent assessment skills with the ability to detect very subtle changes in a patient’s condition are the most crucial parts of this position. Prioritization and organizational skills keep a critical care nurse on task. Communication skills are also vital as these nurses do a lot of patient and family education.
Strong knowledge of anatomy and physiology, medications and their actions, interactions, side effects, and calculations will take a critical care nurse far in educating patients and families about an ICU patient’s condition. Critical care nurses also have to have a grasp on evolving technology in the field. Probably the essential skill overall for ICU nurses of care is the maturity and ability to handle end-of-life issues such as when to cease life-prolonging interventions or organ donation decisions.
Critical care nurses are the eyes and ears between patients and doctors as well as between patients and their families during some of the most challenging situations that life can throw at us. These nurses have to overflow with both smarts and compassion. With the miracles that modern medicine performs every day, nurses in critical care play a significant role in life-changing patient outcomes for all involved. If you feel you want to step up your nursing game, consider taking steps to become a critical care nurse.
About The Author
Crystal Lynn Norris RN – Crystal has been a Registered Nurse specializing in Labor & Delivery for the past three years. Her favorite part of her profession is being able to help women to find their strength bringing new life into the world. Crystal is a wife and mother to her sweet daughter Ruby. In her free time, she enjoys writing, traveling, and spending time with family.