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What to Expect in Critical Care: ICU Nurse 

Treyvon Kurr
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Critical care has few people more knowledgeable and experienced than ICU nurses. They are who work tirelessly to ensure patients in critical condition receive the best possible care, monitoring their vitals, administering medications, and providing emotional support to patients and their families. 

But what goes on in the ICU? This blog will take a closer look at the world of critical care through the eyes of an ICU nurse, uncovering the challenges, triumphs, and daily tasks that make this field so essential to the healthcare industry. 

What are the Responsibilities of ICU Nurses? 

The primary responsibility of an ICU nurse is to provide medical care to critically ill patients in a hospital setting. Critical care refers to a patient’s overall condition rather than a specific diagnosis. 

For instance, a patient with pneumonia may be treated by an ICU nurse before being moved out of the intensive care unit (ICU). However, pneumonia is not considered critical enough to require 24-hour monitoring by a specialized team of professionals. 

Other tasks of an ICU nurse involve: 

  • They Monitor heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, and other vital signs 
  • Observing for signs of distress, such as labored breathing or changes in skin color 
  • They administer medications as prescribed by doctors 
  • Checking oxygen levels 

The Must-Have Skills for ICU Nursing Specialists 

The ICU nurse differs from other nurses in certain percentages. They have additional education and training in critical care skills. The skills include the following: 

  • Patient/family education and instruction 
  • Telemetry 
  • Life support 
  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) 
  • Discharge planning 
  • Advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) 
  • Patient care 
  • Critical care 

Qualities Required for ICU Nursing 

While every patient is different, there are some qualities that all good critical care nurses share: 

  • Planning 
  • Communication 
  • Critical thinking 
  • Research 
  • Computer literacy 
  • Physical abilities 
  • Problem-solving 
  • Organization 
  • Time management 

The Challenges of ICU Nursing 

The ICU is a high-pressure environment, and nurses must be prepared for long hours and challenging decisions making. However, its rewards are well worth it! 

The Rewards of ICU Nursing 

ICU nurses are the “rockstars” of the hospital. A few of the rewards include: 

  • Making a difference in people’s lives. You’ll see patients in their worst and best conditions. You’ll get to understand what they need from you as a nurse and what kind of care would make them more comfortable or heal faster. 
  • Developing relationships with patients and families. There’s nothing like getting attached to someone who comes into your unit for some time or months. You’ll learn more about each other’s lives outside of work, thus, understanding every client better. 
  • Hefty salary. You will enjoy enough income (from $ 74k to $89k) to satisfy your needs without much borrowing. 

Common Conditions ICU Nurses Treat? 

Some of them include the following: 

1. Trauma 

Trauma patients can be severely injured and may need surgery or other treatments. Critical care nurses are called upon to provide emergency care on a temporary basis until the patient can receive more long-term treatment from a specialist. 

2. Post-Operative 

Post-operative patients have undergone surgery and require special attention to prevent complications from occurring during recovery. For instance, infection or bleeding problems lead to death if not treated immediately. Therefore, critical care nurses are trained to treat these complications quickly. 

3. Cancer 

Cancer treatments like chemotherapy or radiation therapy damage healthy cells as well as cancerous ones. However, they can cause side effects such as nausea or fatigue, leading to dehydration or an electrolyte imbalance, thus requiring ICU care. 

4. Ruptured Brain Aneurysm 

This occurs when part of your blood vessel wall weakens and bulges outward like a balloon ready to burst. They can cause bleeding into your skull or around your brain, which is life-threatening if not treated quickly with surgery or medication. 

Other conditions treated in the ICU include: 

  • Stroke 
  • Severe burns 
  •  Heart attack (myocardial infarction) 
  • Severe sepsis 

How Do You Become an ICU Registered Nurse? 

To become an ICU registered nurse, follow these tips: 

  • Obtain an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree from an accredited nursing program. 
  • Pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). 
  • Gain nursing experience (hospital setting). 
  • Receive state licensure to practice as a registered nurse in the state where you plan to work. 
  • Obtain ICU nurse certification from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN). 
  • Pursue a master’s degree in nursing (optional). 
  • Apply for ICU nursing jobs and start your career in the ICU. 

It’s vital to note that each state may have different requirements for licensure and certification. Therefore, do research on the specific requirements for the state where you plan to work. 

Where Do You Start? 

ICU nurses are essential healthcare professionals who provide critical care to patients in intensive care units. With the high demand for ICU nurses, finding a job in this field can be competitive. MLee Healthcare is a countrywide-ranked travel nurse agency, healthcare staffing firm, and executive search firm. We can help ICU nurses find the right job that matches their skills and experience. 

With years of experience in clinical recruiting and medical staffing, MLee Healthcare has specialized expertise in partnering with healthcare systems to achieve the best possible outcome. Our services combine state-of-the-art recruiting and staffing techniques with a wealth of knowledge from professionals. 

Whether it’s a travel nurse position or a permanent placement, MLee Healthcare can help you find the perfect job that suits your career goals. 

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