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Critical Care Nursing | ICU Nurse Job Description

July 5, 2013 by Sarah, BSN, RN

Critical care nursing is a relatively new concept. Advancements in medical technology have made medical care more complex. To provide the best care possible, critical care nurses are provided for the neediest patients. When it comes to medical emergencies, critical care nurses are the people that patients want to see. Critical care nursing is all about providing the highest level of care to ill patients in a timely fashion.

ICU Nurse Job Description

An ICU nurse has the responsibility to handle patients with life-threatening illnesses. His or her job consists of working in intensive care units and emergency departments at healthcare facilities. These individuals insure the proper care of patients and their families.

Critical care nurses are the advocate for ill patient and the family members. They provide specialized experience, knowledge, and skills that their patients need. They may have to work in environments where patients receive intense interventions and therapies, and complex assessments, and they must offer humane care for their patients.

The responsibilities of a critical care nurse may include:

  • Providing the necessary care for patients
  • Acting as a liaison for patients and the families of patients
  • Respecting the rights and beliefs of patients
  • Monitoring the care that patients receive
  • Offering assistance that is in the best interest of the patient
  • Interceding for patients in situations that require action immediately
  • Representing the patient according to his or her choice
  • Providing support and education that can help patients and their designated surrogate make the best decisions possible.

How to Become an ICU Nurse

To become an ICU nurse, it is necessary to earn a degree in nursing. The options to become a nurse are available through an associate’s degree, a diploma program, or a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Many current ICU nurses choose to advance their education by earning a master’s degree in nursing to become an advanced practice nurse so that they can increase their opportunities.

Most hospitals have a minimum education requirement of a bachelor’s in nursing to be considered for a position. Many hospitals may consider honoring certificates from diploma programs for graduates of their own nursing program.

Becoming an ICU nurse does not require certification, but most graduates choose to earn the credentials to increase their marketability. Registered nurses have a greater opportunity for employment and advancement than non-certified ICU nurses do. Certification is an indicator of the exceptionally high level of expertise in the field of nursing.

For those who wish to become certified, it is necessary to have 2 years of experience working with critically ill patients. They can earn the critical care registered nurse certification by taking the CCRN exam administered by the AACN. Many other nursing associations offer the exam necessary to receive certification as an ICU nurse.

More and more employees are requiring that ICU nurses receive the credentials as advanced practice nurses by taking a nationally approved certification examination due to the managed care and Medicare stipulations for reimbursement of funds.

ICU Nurse Salary

The average nursing salary for an ICU nurse is $68,111 annually. Areas of the country in which an ICU nurse can make higher wages are Phoenix, San Francisco, Tampa, and Washington D.C. An ICU nurse can make a salary range of $74,089 to $109,113 annually. The high demand for certified nurses can increase the annually salary significantly, depending on the location, education, experience, and facility.

Critical Care Nursing Jobs

ICU nursing jobs are in great demand around the country so the outlook is exceptional. The need for qualified registered nurses will create over 581,500 jobs by the year 2018.

The nursing shortage is very evident in critical care nursing. The number of travel nurses and temporary nurses has skyrocketed in the past few years. The greatest number of critical care nurses is needed in pediatrics, emergency departments, adult critical care units, and neonatal units.

Many hospitals are now offering qualified ICU nurses very attractive bonuses, continuing education stipends, and relocation bonuses. The use of web based orientation programs are now being used to prepare and attract experience, licensed nurses to become ICU nurses. The Essentials of Critical Care Orientation (ECCO) is one of those programs.

Critical care nurses are imperative to the daily operations of hospitals around the country. The shortage of certified nurses makes a career as a critical care nurse more enticing. Critical care nurses provide specialized care to patients in need and provide support to the patients and the families. The rewarding career of an ICU nurse is well worth the hard work.

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