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Intensive Care Unit RN’s  provide care for critically ill patients with life-threatening medical conditions. They will normally work in the Critical Care Unit or ICU of a healthcare facility or hospital and provide care for patients who have experienced accidents, trauma, invasive surgery or organ failure.

ICU Staff work with patients with life-threatening issues and may often face an end-of-life or ethical matter that may involve withholding medical care. The Critical Care RN is also responsible for providing regular status updates to patients and family members in order for them to make informed decisions regarding treatment. Careful monitoring and assessment of patient progress is required in the ICU and the RN must be on the lookout for any sudden or subtle changes that may require intervention. Patients in this unit are usually physically unstable and require monitoring of respiratory and heart activity. The RN in the ICU is responsible for managing medications, ventilator support and anesthesia.

The Critical Care Nurse must be prepared to work long hours and face life and death situations on a daily basis. The RN must be able to rise to the challenges presented and stay calm under pressure. Excellent communication and teamwork skills as well as multi-tasking are essential for the ICU RN.  This can be a rewarding career as sometimes the RN will play a key role in helping to save a life.

Many ICU RNs will choose a specialty area like cardiology, neurocare, oncology, pediatrics or many others. Most of these paths will involve specialized training and different duties and responsibilities. The Critical Care Nurse may provide care for one patient or several patients, depending on the situation and facility. When the patient has recovered from critical care they are normally transferred to another unit.


In order to become a staff ICU RN or Critical Care Nurse you will need be an RN and have excellent assessment and clinical nursing skills as you will be taking care of patients with life-threatening conditions. Most employers will seek nurses with advanced education such as Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing. A BSN, Bachelor of Science in Nursing, will help prepare nurses for many healthcare challenges and situations that may be encountered on the job. It will also familiarize them with technological advancements that make it possible to treat many illnesses. The BSN degree will show the employer that you have a solid foundation in scientific and medical knowledge to help you provide the best patient care possible.


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