A critical care nurse provides specialized care to patients who are critically ill or suffer from life-threatening injuries that require advanced care in ICUs, emergency rooms, neonatal ICUs, pediatric ICUs, cardiac care units, cardiac catheter labs, telemetry units, progressive units, and recovery rooms. Critical care nurses work alongside other healthcare professionals, including doctors, surgeons, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, nurse researchers, nurse educators, and healthcare case managers.
In addition to hospitals, work settings for critical care nurses include patients’ personal residences, outpatient surgery centers, private physicians’ offices, managed care centers, and nursing schools. Critical care nurses perform complex patient assessments, implement intensive interventions and therapies, and monitor patients. A critically ill or injured patient’s condition can worsen quickly without warning, so critical care nurses must be able to immediately change a current care plan and provide emergency care.
The duties of a critical care nurse often include cleaning and bandaging a patient’s wounds, tracking life support equipment, and immediately responding to changes in a patient’s condition. These nurses may also serve as advocates, supporting and respecting the basic rights, values, and beliefs of critically ill or injured patients. Acting as patients’ representatives, critical care nurses find additional resources outside of the immediate care setting to assist in their patients’ recovery.
Critical care nurses work with patients and families experiencing extreme stress. Providing serious medical care for patients requires that these professionals be empathetic, sensitive, and compassionate while coping with major medical and life-or-death situations. Critical care nurses should be prepared to handle a wide range of emotions resulting from interactions with patients and their families. Often, critical nurses will have to make tough, objective decisions while remaining calm and caring.