Now more than ever, nurses have so many exciting career specialties to choose from! Nurses work in almost any career field imaginable, with new jobs being created every day. That’s one of the things that excites me the most about my choice to pursue a degree in nursing! In this blog post, I’m going to talk about a specialty in nursing that’s at the top of my list… the critical care nurse!
This is the specialty I want to work in when I graduate this December 2023!!! (I can’t believe I’m almost done! The time flew by so fast!)
Currently, I’m working as a Patient Care Technician in the SICU, and I’m excited to announce that I’ve been accepted for a summer Nurse Tech position in the same ICU!
So what do I love about working in the ICU? I love that critical care nursing is fast-paced and keeps you on your toes! There’s always something new to learn and there’s never a dull day! I love the amount of teamwork involved and being able to spend more time with fewer patients and their families.
Anyway, let’s talk more about it!
What is a Critical Care Nurse?
A critical care nurse is a licensed nurse who delivers care to critically ill or acutely injured patients. Nurses in this field often work in a hospital in either an ICU (Intensive Care Unit) or the ER (Emergency Room). They tend to work 12-hour shifts for 3 days a week.
Bigger hospitals usually have specialized ICUs such as trauma, burn, neuro, surgical, cardiac, pediatric, and more. Because these patients are sicker and require more complex care, nurse-to-patient ratios are 2:1 and some patients may even require 1:1 care.
What does the day-to-day job look like?
The job duties of a critical care nurse vary day-to-day and may include:
- Strong assessment skills of both patients and heart rhythms/EKGs.
- Invasive monitoring such as Swan-Ganz catheters, arterial lines, Central Venous Pressure (CVP), and Intracranial Pressure monitoring (ICP).
- These nurses work with lots of advanced equipment and machines which may include ventilators, balloon pumps, Continuous Renal Replacement Therapy (CRRT), and more.
- Patients are often on multiple IV drips that must be titrated and closely monitored, such as vasoactive medications, insulin drips, and sedation.
- Nurses must be proficient in CPR and other life-saving measures.
- And of course, critical care nurses also perform basic nursing duties such as taking vitals, giving medications, patient education, bed baths, and various patient needs.
How much money does a Critical Care Nurse make?
According to the Ziprecruiter website, the national average for an ICU nurse is $78,830 (as of March 2023), which is roughly $38 per hour or $1,515 per week. The pay range falls between $62,500 (25th percentile) and $94,000 (75th percentile). Of course, salary will vary depending on your city, hours worked, type of facility, skill level, and certifications earned. Also, new grads should expect to be paid much less, often as little as $30/hour.
How do I become a Critical Care Nurse?
Of course, the first step is to get licensed as an RN! You can earn either your ASN or BSN. However, some hospitals may prefer a Bachelor’s prepared nurse, especially hospitals with Magnet status. ln the past, many hospitals wanted nurses to have at least a year of experience as a floor nurse before switching to critical care. These days, that seems to no longer be the case! Due to nursing shortages, many new grads are hired into nursing specialties of their choice!
Depending on where you work, there are some certifications you may need to get to work as a critical care nurse. These may include:
- Basic Life Support for Healthcare Providers (all nurses).
- Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS).
- Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS).
- Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN). In order to become CCRN certified, you must have 1,750 hours of critical care experience and pass an exam.
Where can I find more information?
- American Association of Critical Care Nurses
- YouTube – check out the videos from this blog post and then head to their channels for more videos. If you think you want to be a critical care nurse, check out the channel ICU Advantage, which has videos on all kinds of topics you’ll need to know to work in the ICU.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about a career as a critical care nurse! Want to learn more about another nursing specialty? Let me know in the comments and I’ll research it for a future blog post. 🙂
Not yet sure if being a critical care nurse is right for you? Then follow the link to learn about becoming a legal nurse consultant!