An ICU nurse, often called a critical care nurse, works with patients experiencing life-threatening health problems. As the medical condition of these patients is highly acute and complex, they require intense, vigilant nursing that uses technology, in-depth understanding of the human body and specialized skills. Your work in this role will be fast-paced, but like all areas of nursing, it has its rewards.
ICU Nursing Responsibilities
Critical thinking is the central core around which all the responsibilities of the job revolve. You will look at the big picture and strive for the best possible patient outcomes. As an ICU nurse, your routine might include the following duties:
- Analyze lab data and take steps to correct the values.
- If a patient's condition is deteriorating, order medical tests to pinpoint the problem.
- Follow standing orders to provide a wide scope of care that includes tasks such as dispensing medications, performing intubations and administering blood products.
- Use technological devices to assist in the sustainment of life.
- Titration of potent medications to manage symptoms.
- If a patient is actively attempting to die, take measures to save his life.
- Make the patient comfortable by providing care basics such as turning, positioning and bathing.
- Attend to the emotional needs of a patient and support his family.
- When a patient is unable to speak, determine his needs and wishes through an interview with the family.
- Act as a patient advocate, communicating his wishes to the doctor and coordinating them with the plan of care.
Where Do Critical Care or ICU Nurses Work?
You may work in a variety of hospital settings, including adult, pediatric or neonatal ICUs as well as cardiac care units, cardiac catheter labs and telemetry units. You may also find yourself in emergency rooms, recovery rooms and progressive care units. Additionally, critical care nurses work in outpatient surgery centers and clinics along with managed care organizations and home health care agencies.
Pros and Cons of Critical Care Nursing
Every job has pros and cons. The pros of your role will include working with fewer patients, being more independent and working closely with doctors. A drawback to the job, however, is having to deal with emotional attachments to patients and coping with more deaths than you might encounter in another nursing specialty.
ICU Nurse Salary
According to PayScale, the national income for ICU nurses ranges from $45,436 to $89,310, with a median national income of $60,988. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects registered nursing jobs to grow at a rate of 19 percent between 2012 and 2022.
In a challenging career as a critical care nurse, you will play an important role in the lives of seriously ill patients. As you draw upon your training and education to provide care, their likelihood of recovery will be maximized.
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