What Does a Critical Care Nurse Do?
Critical care nurses are licensed professional nurses that ensure all critically ill patients receive optimal care for the illnesses and injuries. They perform complex assessments, high intensity therapy and intervention, and advocate on behalf of the patients. They employ a specialized skill set and knowledge of the human body in order to care for their patients. The critical care nursing umbrella also includes subsets of adult, pediatric and neonatal care. The majority of these nurses work in hospital settings where critically ill patients are present, including intensive care units, cardiac care units, telemetry units, progressive care units, emergency departments, and recovery rooms. Some critical care nurses also work in nursing homes, schools, outpatient surgery centers and flight units. Critical care nurses are required to stay abreast of the latest technology and medical information to provide the best care for their patients. This technology can include cardiac monitoring systems, mechanical ventilator therapy, continuous renal replacement equipment, and many other advanced life support systems.
How Can I Become a Critical Care Nurse?
To become a critical care nurse, one must first earn an RN degree from an accredited university and become licensed as a registered nurse. They must also earn an advanced degree, typically a master’s level nursing degree, to acquire the necessary education required of this position. Following the completion of their educational requirements, nurses can then participate in a hospital run orientation or training program that specializes in critical care. Certification is not mandatory but many nurses choose to become certified as a critical care nurse (CCRN). To be eligible for the certification exam, nurses must possess a nursing degree, a minimum of two years of experience in critical care and a set number of hours in critical care continued education. Critical care nurses can then focus their practice on subspecialities, including neonatal intensive care, pediatric intensive care and adult intensive care. The certification is provided through the American Association of Critical Care Nurses.
What Is the Career and Salary Outlook for a Critical Care Nurse?
The average annual salary for critical care nurses will vary depending on geographic location, organization and experience level, but can range from $40,000 – $75,000. With the growing nursing shortage in this country, especially in the specialized disciplines, many facilities are offering increasingly attractive compensation packages to attract highly qualified critical care nurses, including sign-on bonuses, relocation bonuses and higher pay grades. This indicates that the overall job outlook for critical care nurses is very positive. Nursing students should not have trouble finding employment in this field once they complete their educational and certification requirements. Critical care nurses are also required to earn a set number of continued education hours after they receive their certification. This is to ensure all nurses are kept up to date on the latest medical advancements in technology and care. Nurses in this field should be compassionate, knowledgeable and able to think on their feet.