Schools in the USA
Back to Career Search     

Critical Care Nurse


There are a lot of hard jobs out there. Plenty of jobs strain your emotions, make you re-evaluate your ethics, and squeeze your heart on a daily basis. But one of the most draining jobs out there, which is also one of the most important, is that of the critical care nurse.

Critical care nurses work with patients who are terminally ill, or have suffered a potentially fatal accident. Along with countless hours spent monitoring and administering care to the patients, they also spend a lot of time with the families of the patients, helping them deal with the issues at hand. This can include anything from listening to stories and sharing a coffee to helping the family decide whether or not to continue life support.

Critical care nurses specialize in one of three fields. Adult critical care nurses help adult patients and their families cope with actual or potential life-threatening health crises. Pediatric critical care nurses help medical doctors treat serious childhood diseases and injuries, as well as support the child's family throughout the illness. Some critical care nurses work in emergency room situations, working with doctors to save patients who have suffered some sort of accident or collapse. They may also do follow-up work on these patients after the operations. Because they are often involved in life-or-death situations, critical care nurses have expertise in the cardiovascular, pulmonary, nervous, renal, gastrointestinal, endocrine, hematologic and immune systems.

Most critical care wings in hospitals try to have a large staff of critical care nurses. This is because the nurses are required to continually monitor the patients. The nurse assumes full responsibility for the patient, and is the one who reports changes in health to doctors and other nurses. The critical care nurse ensures that all information about the patient is accurate, up-to-date, and fills in the replacement nurses or night nurses about specifics regarding their patients.

One of the more challenging aspects to the job is helping patients and their families face ethical dilemmas. They have to discuss organ donation, life support, blood transfusions and organ transplants. The nurse may have to deal with families and patients whose beliefs and values are different. It can be tough to watch people make what you might consider to be the wrong decision, but as a nurse you'll have to be supportive and patient with everyone, no matter what they decide.
View Schools for this Career: 
         Related Careers
arrow Advanced Care Paramedic
arrow Anesthesiologists
arrow Animal Care Worker
arrow [ view all related careers ]

Program Spotlight
Matching School Ad
Purdue University Global

Building on Purdue's mission to provide greater access to affordable, world-class education, Purdue University Globaldelivers a fully personalized online experience that's tailored to working adults.

Programs Offered:
  • Master of Science - DNP Path (Doctor of Nursing Practice)
  • Bachelors of Science in Nursing - RN to BSN
  • MS in Nursing
  • And more...



  Interests and Skills  
Interested in becoming a critical care nurse? You need to be flexible, as well as physically and emotionally stable. A sense of humor, a strong set of morals and a desire to help others are also important qualities. You should enjoy science. You should be a good communicator, and be able to connect with children, the elderly, and everyone in between. You should be a self-starter who doesn't mind working alone. You should be compassionate, as well as critical, and able to motivate and inspire others. You should be open and supportive of all backgrounds, cultures and religious belief systems. You should be confident, and able to make good decisions, even under stress.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Monitor patients
  • Administer medication and treatments
  • Update charts and files
  • Meet with families of patients
  • Discuss patients with doctors and nurses
  • Assist in operations
  • The typical day for a critical care nurse will be stressful, tiring and fulfilling. They will spend the majority of the time with patients, administering medication, performing checkups and updating charts. They may also assist in critical operations. They will also communicate with families and doctors about the patients' conditions. Critical care nurses meet many different people, from a variety of cultural and religious backgrounds. They don't get to travel much, as they spend most of their time in emergency rooms, operating rooms or critical care wards.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Critical care nurses work with children and adults who are in critical condition. They work in hospitals, on the critical care floors dedicated to terminally ill patients, and patients who have suffered life-threatening accidents. They may also work in operating rooms and emergency departments, assisting other nurses and doctors with critical cases.
  • Due to the nature of the work, critical care nurses often work weekend and overnight shifts. They work in teams of other nurses and doctors, but spend much of their time alone with the patients and their families.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Critical care nurses who no longer want to work in hospitals can become public health nurses, and work in private organizations which provide health care related services, or can be self-employed. They can also travel the world with international relief organizations. If they want to leave health care, nurses can get into counseling, teaching, childcare and sales.

  Educational Paths  
In order to work as a critical care nurse, you should pursue either a bachelor's degree in nursing, or a nursing diploma. You will also be required to choose some sort of area in which to specialize, be it infant, prenatal or adult critical care. This will likely require some added time in school.

While both programs qualify you to work, nurses with a bachelor's degree find it easier to advance within the field. A graduate degree in nursing is required for those nurses who would like administrative or management positions.

Nurses must pass national nursing licensing exams upon completion of their training, and some regionl require nurses to register with a regional association before they can begin work.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

Featured Schools

Matching School Ads
Purdue University Global

Building on Purdue's mission to provide greater access to affordable, world-class education, Purdue University Globaldelivers a fully personalized online experience that's tailored to working adults.

Programs Offered:
  • Master of Science - DNP Path (Doctor of Nursing Practice)
  • Bachelors of Science in Nursing - RN to BSN
  • MS in Nursing
  • And more...

Nova Southeastern University
Advanced Nursing Degrees at Nova Southeastern University – Offered Online!!
Secure your career Change healthcare. Choose the best nursing program for you New technologies, New nursing responsibilities, New healthcare policies.
There have been so many rapid changes within the healthcare field in recent years. The focus on evidence-based care is apparent. For instance, as of 2013, the American Nurses Association (ANA) requires 100% of nursing managers to hold a B.S.N. or higher to even qualify for their “Magnet” hospital designation. 
Programs Offered:
  • DNP
  • RN-MSN - Nursing Informatics
  • MSN - Nursing Informatics
  • And more...

Ross Medical Education Centers
Get allied health training with Ross Medical Education Center.
Programs Offered:
  • Nursing - Associate of Applied Science
  • Practical Nursing
  • Medical Assistant

Northcentral University
  • Northcentral University was founded in 1996 to provide working professionals around the world with unprecedented access to richly engaging, professionally relevant, and academically-rigorous education from a U.S. university.
Programs Offered:
  • Doctor of Education - Nursing Education

Lincoln Tech

Lincoln Tech is your LINC to a new career!

Programs Offered:
  • Nursing (Practical)
  • Medical Assistant

Ohio Christian University
Pursue your education at Ohio Christian University.
Programs Offered:
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

Altierus Career College

Altierus Career College is a non-profit, higher education school system with campuses in Atlanta, Houston and Tampa. 

Programs Offered:
  • Diploma - Nursing

Keiser University Campus

Since 1977, Keiser University has maintained a practical, hands-on approach to career-focused education to help our students achieve their personal and professional goals.  Our student-centered approach remains at the foundation of the Keiser University mission and continues to attract students who prefer a more personal learning experience. 

Programs Offered:
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (Accelerated)
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (FastTrack)
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (Traditional)

Ultimate Medical Academy

Ultimate Medical Academy is a nonprofit healthcare career school—and students are at the heart of everything we do. That’s why we offer exclusive student services through your career training and beyond, beginning from the time you enroll online or at our campus in Clearwater, FL. We’ll also guide you toward the right program for your goals, and help you understand the affordability of your career training. So let us know you’re interested, and we’ll discuss how UMA can help you succeed.


Gainful employment information can be found at UltimateMedical.edu/gainful-employment and includes information on tuition, loan debt, completion, placement, and occupations.

Programs Offered:
  • Nursing Assistant
  • Patient Care Technician
  • Medical Assistant

Rasmussen College

Further your education and strengthen your skill set at Rasmussen College

Programs Offered:
  • Professsional Nursing Associate's Degree
  • Practical Nursing Diploma
  • RN to BSN
  • And more...

Matching School Ads
  Universities and Colleges
Clarkson UniversityColorado School of MinesDalhousie University
Oral Roberts UniversityPenn State HarrisburgTemple University
The University of HoustonThompson Rivers UniversityUNB Saint John
University of AlabamaUniversity of ArkansasUniversity of British Columbia
University of IowaUniversity of New BrunswickUniversity of Ottawa
York University
Agriculture and Bio-resources | Allied Health and Health Sciences | Applied Business Technology | Architecture
Business Administration | Computer Science | Cosmetology and Esthetics | Culinary, Travel &Hospitality | Dance 
Engineering Technology & Applied Technology |Engineering | Film | Fine Arts and Design | Humanities and Liberal ArtsJustice and Security
| Natural and Applied Sciences | Naturopathic and Holistic MedicineNursingPublic Administration & PolicyReligious and Theological Studies
Sport Sciences and Physical Education | Teacher Education | Theatre
Articles | College News | Videos | Feedback | Career Search
Home | About Us | Contact Us | Faq | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Site Map | Cities Site Map

Copyright 2003- 2018 QuinStreet, Inc. All Rights Reserved.