What is a progressive care nurse? As even a brand new nursing student knows, the array of nursing specialties and the different types of facilities, acuity levels, and acronyms can be overwhelming, and even a veteran critical care nurse has described progressive care as “one of the fastest-growing nursing specialties” that is nonetheless “one of the least understood.”
However, if you’re a new nurse or thinking about becoming a nurse, progressive care — which involves patients who are not in ICU but have complex needs — might be ideal for you. Progressive Care Certified Nurses (PCCNs) in particular are valued assets at almost any hospital and the job is highly rewarding on many levels.
Progressive care registered nurses work in a Progressive Care Unit (PCU) treating patients who are acutely ill. A PCU is one in which the patients need more monitoring than a medical-surgical unit but are not critical enough for the ICU. To be a progressive care nurse requires an RN, but many employers require certification in progressive care nursing (PCRN).
Patients on a PCU typically need assessments, medications, and education, and like most patients, progressive care patients typically also need continuous observation and monitoring. Many are cardiac patients on telemetry, but many other high-acuity conditions are treated in a progressive care unit.
Progressive care nursing is a challenging job, but the variety, pace, patient interaction, and in-demand skillset are attracting a growing number of nurses to the PCU.
Variety and fast-paced work environment
One of the biggest draws to progressive care nursing is the variety of patients and conditions you’ll treat. While nurses can specialize in some healthcare systems, a nurse who truly enjoys learning and working with various skills and conditions will never be bored working in a PCU. A typical day may require evaluating cardiac changes, providing life-saving interventions, dose titration, collaborating with other specialties, educating family members, and working with specialized equipment. It’s a fast-paced environment requiring highly skilled, proactive, and dedicated nurses.
Help patients and their loved ones in high-acuity situations
Another reason nurses specialize in progressive care nursing is the unique environment that combines the skillset of intensive care with the patient relationships of a medical-surgical unit. While patients may require continuous monitoring and complex, round-the-clock care, they are more likely to interact and form relationships with staff than ICU patients, who are often ventilated. Nurses who thrive on the intensity of high-acuity situations also enjoy the personal connections with their patients and families and find progressive care nursing caters to both.
Develop a varied and extensive skillset
The acuity of progressive care patients means nurses gain various technical skills working with them. Because of that varied and intensive skillset, progressive care nurses are in demand all over the country. In addition, their comprehensive skillset can benefit any unit in the hospital, making them highly popular both as unit and float nurses. And, for those who would like to take their skills on the road, progressive care travel nursing jobs are available in nearly every state.
Plenty of room to build a rewarding, challenging, and fulfilling career
If you’re considering a specialty that combines the best in nursing—variety, clinical skills, relationships, and flexibility—progressive care nursing may be perfect. This fairly new and growing specialty provides plenty of opportunities and room for growth, plus the skills to take you anywhere nurses can go. It’s no wonder nurses in this specialty find it one of the most rewarding jobs in nursing.