How Do You Become a Critical Care Nurse?

Before you become a critical care nurse, you need to know what it takes to thrive in your profession. This includes understanding the skills and personal traits required, educational qualifications and key responsibilities. Here is a comprehensive list of what you need to do.

Understand the Key Responsibilities of a Critical Care Nurse

A critical care nurse works with patients suffering from acute conditions that require emergency treatment. These may include heart attack, stroke, shock, severe trauma, respiratory congestion and any other medical emergency. In this case, a critical care nurse may help provide advanced life support, assist physicians to perform procedures, observe vital signs and asses the patient’s condition. They may also educate and support the patient’s family and administer intravenous medications.

Get the Right Education and Certifications

A critical care nurse should have at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing to practice. All nursing degree degree programs take an average of four years to complete. One must complete courses in patient management, clinical research, patient care procedures and clinical assessments.

A majority of critical nursing employers expect nothing less than an RN designation, meaning you have to pass the NCLEX-RN to qualify. You must also pass an examination administered by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACCN) before you qualify for registration. Other additional certifications include Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS).

Acquire Key Skills and Personal Traits

You need to have great critical thinking, listening, assessment, interpersonal, leadership and communication skills to succeed as a critical care nurse. You must also be an expert in making quick decisions, administering the right care, recognizing complications and coordinating with other team members.

Gain Experience

You should first gain at least one year of experience in primary patient care before you sign up for a critical care nursing position. You will also need to gain at least two years of experience in the critical care unit before you apply for the Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN) certification exam.

Understand the Work Environment

Critical care nurses work in the emergency rooms, intensive care units, walk-in clinics and physicians’ offices. They usually work round the clock because of the volatile situations of their patients. This is often done is rotating shifts that include days, nights, holidays and weekends. The job is physically demanding, as it involves a lot of lifting, moving, standing and stretching.

Critical Care Nurse Salary and Job Outlook

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, critical care nurses earn an average salary of $104,610 per year. The bottom 10 percent earn $72,420 while the top 10 percent earn $140,930. Critical care nurses have a higher earning potential than the regular RNs. This is mainly because of their specialized nature, advanced level of education and the demanding conditions of their work.

The demand for critical care nurses is expected to increase significantly. This is due to the rapid advancements in technology and healthcare, which has made it possible to save more patients in emergency rooms. The acute staffing shortages in some states will also affect the demand.

Related Resource: What is a Flight Nurse?

Working in a critical care unit is a serious business that requires individuals who are specialized and well-educated in emergency care. The items discussed above will give you helpful insights on what you need to do to become a critical care nurse.