What Is an Intensive Care Unit Nurse?
Intensive Care (ICU) or critical care nursing is complex and demanding, requiring an advanced technical skill set, a calm demeanor, and a positive life attitude. ICU nurses care for patients who have life-threatening medical problems or injuries and may work with patients ranging in age from infants to elderly. These patients frequently have suffered through catastrophic illnesses or accidents. The task is intricate, as ICU nurses are responsible for maintaining and restoring patients’ health through thorough treatment of their many body systems. Numerous nurses opt to specialize in dealing with a particular demographic. ICU nurses must possess exceptional communication and leadership skills, as well as the ability to follow complex instructions.
What Is the Distinction Between an ICU and a Floor Nurse?
A patient admitted to a floor, whether medical-surgical, orthopedics, or another specialty, is deemed to have a stable condition or disease process that may or may not develop into an unstable one.
If a patient’s health deteriorates on the floor, the ICU team responds promptly and effectively to stabilize the patient; the patient may be transferred to the ICU for closer observation.
ICU nurses provide treatment for patients who are regarded to be in a state of instability. This indicates that they either have an unstable respiratory or cardiovascular system or a high risk of one or both of these systems becoming unstable and necessitating additional monitoring.
Due to the ICU’s greater level of care, ICU interventions such as intubation, initiating vasopressors, or pacing a patient’s heart (among others that are very situation-dependent) can be initiated promptly and efficiently.
What Are Common ICU Care Standards?
The American Association of Critical Care Nurses and the hospital’s policies and procedures guide ICU standards of care (AACN). Among the generally acknowledged standards of practice are the following:
- Every hour, check and record vital indicators.
- Every four hours, complete assessment and documentation
- Typically, at least daily blood draws are performed.
- Every two hours, repositioning and checking the integrity of the skin
- Every shift, wound care
- Evaluation of continuous telemetry monitoring on a regular basis
- Continuous critical thinking in order to identify worst-case scenarios for each body system and systematic preparation for each scenario
Certain interventions are performed significantly more frequently by ICU nurses, including the administration of vasoactive drugs for hemodynamic instability, the hypothermia protocol following a cardiac arrest, intubation for respiratory failure, CPR, and performing Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS).
How to Become an ICU Nurse
Nurses who have a passion for statistics and the management of a single patient’s condition and outcome do well in the intensive care unit. Equally crucial are a curious mind and an awareness of processes. ICU nurses are highly empathetic and unafraid to argue for their patients in front of upset family members.
What Education Do ICU Nurses Need?
Any nursing student interested in ICU nursing should seek a Nursing Student Externship with strong undergraduate grades and nursing licensure. Typically, accessible to senior nursing students in their final year of study, the externship permits them to help registered nurses in the intensive care unit, gaining valuable experience and guidance from the nurses. Hospitals frequently advertise formal externship programs online; your college or university may also advertise similar possibilities for nursing students. After passing the NCLEX, many Nurse Externs enroll in an RN New Graduate Internship program.
For experienced RNs, transitioning to the ICU often entails applying for an ICU post and typically enrolling in a training program prior to or contemporaneous with the application. These positions and criteria vary by institution, but frequently include a didactic and mentorship component, during which the candidate works under the supervision of a senior ICU nurse until success criteria and leadership in the role are met.
Are there any required certifications or credentials?
Currently, RN certification needs either an ADN or a BSN degree; many hospitals prefer to hire BSN applicants or those who complete their degree while working.
Numerous certifications are available through the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN). The CCRN is a certification for adult intensive care unit nurses. Additionally, pediatric and neo-natal modules are available.
To renew the CCRN, contact hours are necessary. Renewal options include retaking the exam or completing required Synergy CERPs, paying a charge of up to $200, and keeping an unencumbered RN license.
Where Do Intensive Care Unit Nurses Work?
Due to the nature of their work and the specialized equipment and resources required to care for their patients, hospital networks frequently pool resources, locating an ICU unit (and its nurses) in larger hospitals, centralized hospitals, and teaching facilities to maximize the resources available to patients. Hospitals that lack critical care units have transfer arrangements in place with the closest intensive care unit. ICU nurses work virtually solely within their unit; little policy or outreach work occurs as a result of the nature of the profession.
What Does an Intensive Care Unit Nurse Do?
A critical care nurse works in a hospital’s intensive care unit with pediatric, neonatal, or adult patients. They may specialize based on the patient demographic’s demands and the size of the hospital where they work.
ICU nurses work in high ratios with patients who have already had, or are at risk of developing, a life-threatening complication, trauma, or disease process, as ICU patients require extensive and frequent nursing care, assessments, and monitoring.”
What Are the Duties and Responsibilities of an ICU Nurse?
- Collaborate with the multidisciplinary team to design a plan of care for patients’ stabilization.
- Effective communicator, critical thinker, leader, and patient advocate – on behalf of both the patient and the medical team
- Utilize highly developed abilities for physical assessment
- Make quick decisions while juggling several tasks
- Effortlessly and successfully administer a number of life-saving therapies
- Maintain a close eye on one or more patients.
- Prioritizes patient care plans in accordance with the patient’s needs and available resources
- Identifies patient and family educational needs and provides suitable education
- Maintains meticulous records of patient care, protocol, and unit operations.
- Is culturally sensitive
- Demonstrates an awareness of and adherence to the ethical standards governing patient confidentiality and risk management
- Transfer patients to end-of-life comfort care
What Nursing Specialties Are Available for ICU Nurses?
Nurse in Neurological Intensive Care Unit
Neurological intensive care unit nurses care for patients who have sustained a traumatic brain injury and/or a spinal cord injury. The work contains the following:
- Neurological examinations on a regular basis
- Intracranial devices are frequently used.
- Knowledge of spinal cord and brain injuries on a comprehensive level
- Medication is frequently used to reduce intracranial pressure and manage blood pressure.
Cardiac Intensive Care Unit Nurse
Heart ICU nurses care for patients who have undergone or require cardiac surgery or cardiac catheterization, who are having a non-ST elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI), or who require medication management. Cardiac ICU nurses conduct the following duties on a regular basis:
- Monitoring of hemodynamics and telemetry on a frequent basis
- Intracardiac devices such as Swan-Ganz catheters (pulmonary artery) and
- intra-aortic balloon pumps are used (IABP)
- Medication is frequently used to regulate heart rate, rhythm, cardiac output, and blood pressure.
Medical Intensive Care Unit Nurse
Medical ICU care for patients who have sepsis, pneumonia, are withdrawing from a substance such as alcohol or drugs, have suffered a stroke, myocardial infarction, or are experiencing active gastrointestinal bleeding. Medical intensive care unit nursing operations may include the following:
- hemodynamic monitoring on a regular basis
- Ventilators and hypothermia devices are frequently used.
- Medication and fluid administration are frequently used for fluid resuscitation, hemodynamic instability, and infection.
ICU Trauma Nurse
Trauma ICU nurses care for patients who have incurred injuries as a result of a motor vehicle accident, a fall, an attempted homicide, an attempted suicide, or drowning. Trauma ICU nursing may involve the following:
- Rapid examination and diagnosis of trauma-related consequences
- Comprehensive knowledge of injuries to the brain, spine, chest, orthopedics, and abdomen
- Continuous observation for subtle changes that may necessitate emergency action
ICU Nurse for Burns
Burn ICU nurses provide care to patients who have sustained severe burns over a vast surface area. Procedures may include the following:
- Wounds should be evaluated, treated, and managed appropriately.
- Sepsis treatment
- Maintain open airways and sufficient perfusion
- Management of pain
Nurse in the Transplant ICU
Patients admitted to the Transplant ICU have had or are about to get an organ transplant, such as a cornea, heart, liver, or kidney. Transplant intensive care unit nurses are accountable for the following:
- Keep an eye out for organ rejection.
- Stabilize hemodynamics
- Chest tubes and ventilators are frequently used, depending on the type of organ transplanted.
Pediatric Intensive Care Unit Nurse
The PICU nurse witnesses both amazing recoveries and tragic losses; for some nurses, this is especially tough when pediatric patients are involved. Pediatric intensive care unit nursing care involves the following:
- Hemodynamic and respiratory status are closely monitored.
- Diagnosis and treatment of congenital illnesses
Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Nurse
Neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU, nursing cares for infants who have suffered life-threatening injuries or diseases. As part of their work, NICU nurses engage in the following activities:
- Extensive understanding of congenital disorders and infant diseases
- Accidental and traumatic injuries are common.
Salary and Employment Opportunities for ICU Nurses
With the BLS projecting sustained, above-average growth over the next decade, there will be plenty of opportunities for nurses seeking to enter the ICU. Nursing for critical care patients will always remain in demand, thanks to advanced certifications and the option to specialize.
The average pay for an ICU nurse is $64,764, while data indicates that salaries can go as high as $93,717. As is the case with other jobs and industries, a nurse’s income is influenced by his or her location, experience, education, and any certifications he or she may own or obtain.