Critical Care Nurse

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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.
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Liberty University

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  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,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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