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Critical Care Nurse Duties and Responsibilities

To ensure proper care for patients and the successful operations of emergency or intensive care departments, Critical Care Nurses must perform a variety of tasks. We have reviewed several job listings and found the following among the core Critical Care Nurse duties and responsibilities.

Assess and Treat Patients In many cases, a Critical Care Nurse might see a patient before a physician does, so they must be prepared to assess a patient's condition and begin treatment. This would include taking vital signs, treating and dressing wounds, setting up IVs and administering medication. They would monitor a patient's progress and report any changes to the physician.

Order Diagnostic Tests Since many illnesses or injuries typically require some sort of diagnostic testing, it is often up to the Critical Care Nurse to send orders for these procedures, which can include x-rays, CT scans or EKGs. A Critical Care Nurse can go over test results with physicians in order to come up with effective treatment plans.

Educate Patients A Critical Care Nurse can explain patient conditions to patients themselves and family members. They can review care plans that patients can continue once they have been discharged from the hospital or clinic. These plans could include dietary restrictions, physical therapy exercises, medications or other lifestyle changes.

Comply with Healthcare Regulations A Critical Care Nurse should be knowledgeable about and aware of any regulatory laws concerning health care, such as patient privacy and personal health information laws. They should also know and work under the policies of the specific medical facility in which they are employed. Finally, they should adhere to clinical and ethical standards of their profession.


Critical Care Nurse Skills

Critical Care Nurses should have strong analytical, interpersonal and decision-making skills. They should be able to effectively communicate with patients, families and other health care professionals. The ability to work in teams is essential for Critical Care Nurses. These nurses often work long shifts and it is important that they have the physical ability to stand for long periods of time, transport patients by pushing or pulling gurneys and wheelchairs, and lift patients as needed. In addition to these general skills, a Critical Care Nurse could be expected by potential employers to possess the following skills. Core skills: Based on job listings we looked at, employers want Critical Care Nurses with these core skills. If you want to work as a Critical Care Nurse, focus on the following.
  • Knowing treatment plans and options for various life-threatening medical conditions
  • Understanding how to use various medical devices, such as catheters and feeding tubes
  • Operating life support systems
  • Understanding patient safety and privacy rules and regulations
  • Creating and implementing patient care plans
Advanced skills: While most employers did not require the following skills, multiple job listings included them as preferred. Add these to your Critical Care Nurse toolbox and broaden your career options.
  • Adhere to ethical standards of nursing practice
  • Knowledge of relevant health information systems and technology
  • Able to speak other languages in addition to English

Critical Care Nurse Resources

It is beneficial to research additional information if you are considering a career as a Critical Care Nurse that can give you insight into the challenges and responsibilities of this position. We have provided links to online and print resources about this career, which appear below. On the Web

Nurse Eye Roll - A Critical Care Nurse gives a personal perspective on a career in nursing, with various posts on nursing practice, patient care and more.

Lamentations44 - Another blog examining the personal insight of an actual ICU nurse, with real-life stories about patients and how she feels about her role as a Critical Care Nurse. Industry Groups

American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN) - AACN supports Critical Care Nurses by providing up-to-date webinars and live conferences focusing on nursing practices and evidence-based learning. Certification information, continuing education and online publications are also provided.

American Association of Heart Failure Nurses (AAHFN) - An organization offering educational and nursing practice information for Critical Care Nurses working in cardiac care clinics or units.

American Nurses Association (ANA) - Since 1911, ANA has been providing professional support to nurses of all areas. The organizations offers information about professional conduct, safety, ethics and advocacy. Books

Priorities in Critical Care Nursing 7th Edition - An in-depth look at the Critical Care Nurse career, from patient management techniques to diagnostic practices.

Critical Care Nursing Made Incredibly Easy Fourth Edition - An easy-to-read and often humorous text about how to work in various specialties of critical care, conditions you might see, advice about how to handle specific situations and more.

Concise Review of Critical Care, Trauma and Emergency Medicine: A Quick Reference Guide of ICU and ER Topics - An insightful book presenting clinical scenarios Critical Care Nurses and other ICU and ER professionals can expect to see when working in these environments.

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