Critical Care Nurse

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A critical care nurse cares for patients who are critically ill. The nurse has a great deal of one-on-one contact with the patient and is often the main source of contact for the family members. A critical care nurse is responsible for constant monitoring of the patient’s condition, as well as recognition of any subtle changes. These nurses use a large amount of technology within their practice and function as integral members of the multidisciplinary health care team. Critical care nurses must possess the ability to collaborate with other members of the health care team such as physicians, case managers, therapists, and, especially, other nurses. They are responsible for all care given to the patient, from medication administration to tracheotomy and other ventilator care, as well as constant monitoring of the patient for any alterations in their status. Responsibilities include monitoring, assessment, vital sign monitoring, ventilatory management, medication administration, intravenous insertion and infusion, central line care, Swan-Ganz catheters, and maintenance of a running record of the patient’s status. He or she must be prepared at all times to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation and other lifesaving techniques.


Registered nurse preparation and Advanced Cardiac Life Support certification are required. Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Critical Care Nurse certification are preferred, and may be required depending on the institution. Most institutions require at least 1 to 2 years of medical/surgical experience, although some hospitals are offering extended preceptorships to selected new graduates. Previous critical care experience is desired. In addition to prior experience, many institutions require nurses to pass a critical care course, usually offered in the hospital, and to complete 4 to 6 weeks of orientation to the unit. Certification in critical care or cardiac medicine is available from the American Association of Critical Care Nursing Certification Corporation.


■ Excellent assessment skills, ability to detect very subtle changes in a patient’s condition
■ Strong organizational skills, ability to prioritize
■ Communication skills and patient and family education skills
■ Strong knowledge of anatomy and physiology, medications and their actions, interactions, side effects, and calculations
■ Maturity and ability to handle end-of-life issues such as when to cease life-prolonging interventions or organ donation decisions
■ An affinity for technology


■ American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (

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