What is a critical care or ICU nurse?

A critical care nurse, very often also referred to as an ICU nurse, is a type of registered nurse (RN) that provides care for patients in critical conditions. These patients may be adults or children who are recovering from serious medical problems, such as illnesses and injuries. Some critical care nurses may specialize in specific medical problems, like critical burn injuries.

Most critical care nurses work with hospitals in ICUs or critical care units. Some may be employed with transport units, where their job is to accompany patients in critical condition to better-equipped facilities.

What do critical care nurses do?

Critical care nurses provide much of the basic care for patients in or recovering from critical medical conditions. They assist doctors and other specialists in monitoring and treating such patients.

If you are working as a critical care nurse, your prime responsibility is to monitor critical patients. For patients in critical conditions, it is crucial to record data like blood oxygen levels and other vital signs regularly and frequently. For this, you need to be comfortable with using a variety of monitoring equipment.

As a critical care nurse, you are also required to make quick assessments regarding the progress or decline in the patient’s condition. Based on this assessment, you are not only meant to promptly inform the doctor but also adjust certain treatment options yourself. You should also be well-versed in life-saving techniques, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and use of defibrillators.

Apart from providing care to patients, critical care nurses also interact with the patients’ loved ones. Your communication skills come into play when explaining treatment procedures to family members and friends of the patients in your care, updating them about the patients’ conditions, and, if the need arises, informing them of the worst with empathy.

What personal qualities and characteristics make a good critical care nurse?

Communication skills. As mentioned above, an important part of your job as a critical care nurse is to interact regularly with the patients’ loved ones. In addition, your verbal and non-verbal communication with the patients themselves can have an effect on their recovery or ability to cope with their condition.

Quick assessment. The condition of patients in critical care can undergo drastic changes in a very short period. This makes it important for the nurse to read the signs before conditions worsen.

Decision-making. The quick assessment of a patient’s condition is coupled with the ability to make changes in the treatment procedure accordingly, especially when a doctor is not at hand.

Emotional stability. The mortality rate among critical care patients is naturally higher than other categories of patients. Critical care nurses should be able to deal with losing their patients in a quick and healthy manner.