Critical Care Nurse

Critical-care nurses are responsible for treating patients who've been severly injuries, including those recovering from traumatic accidents. They also ensure that terminally ill, sick and injured patients recieve the highest level of medical care available. Finally, they discuss patients' medical status with family members and communicate with other healthcare professional, including attending physicians.

Critical-care nursing is one of the newer fields of critical patient care. With new medical and technological advanced occuring regularly, critical-care nurses must acquire new skills and knowlege to assist, treat and monitor injured patients. The field of intensive care was introduced during the 50's in response to critically ill and injured patients requiring unique and individualized medical care. Since then, critical-care nursing has become one of the most highly specialized of all the nursing specialities. Today, about 25 percent of nurses in the U.S. specialize in critical-care nursing.

Nurses who specialize in critical care, work with patients that require complex physical therapies, rehabilitations, constant monitoring and intricate medical assessments. To address patients' complex and ever changing needs, critical-care nurses require specialized training and education. In addition to direct patient care, critical-care nurses are responsible for compforting patients' family members that struggle to cope with their loved ones condition. Critical-care nurses must be patient, empathetic and compassionate.

Most critical-care nurses work at medical clinics and hospitals. Their responsibilities can vary greatly depending on the type of medical facility they work for. Critical-care nurses include several types of clinical nurse specialists including, nurse managers, clinical nurse practictioners, nurse researchers and educators, and bedside clinicians. With the advent of managed care and the influx of patients into assisted living facilities, the role of critical-care nursing evolved to include specialized services provided for the severly disabled and terminally ill.

Within critical care and acute healthcare environments the demand for critical-care nurses is on the rise. As critical-care nurses are required to have advanced skills to treat and care for the critically ill, they're also required to have advanced training and education.

Within critical-care environments, critical-care nurses are usually referred to as clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) or acute nurse practitioners (ACNPs).

Given the advanced skill set that most critical-care nurses acquire during their training, many states allow critical-care nurses great discretion when treating patients. Most critical-care nurses share the ability to diagnose illness, administer treatment, manage direct patient care, and discuss treatments and conditions with family members.

Practice Settings

The majority of critical-care nurses work in hospital emergency rooms, cardiac care units, neonatl intensive care units (ICUs), cardiac catheter labs, pediatric ICUs, and general intensive care units. Critical-care nurses are also found working at surgical centers, with emergency flight teams, managed care clinics, colleges and universities, and home health organizations.

Salary Range and Benefits

Salaries for critical-care nurses and critical-care nurse specialists are determined by work experience, education, career specialty and location. As previously mentioned, in many areas there shortages in critical-care nurses. Consequently, many employing organizations are offering critical-care nurses sign-on bonuses, relocation bonuses, and generous benefits.

In a recent survey critical-care nurses reported the following annual salaries:

  • $24,999 or less – 4%
  • $25,000 – 39,999 – 18%
  • $40,000 – 54,999 – 39%
  • $55,000 – 74,999 – 29%
  • $75,000 or more – 8%

Certified critical-care nurses typically earn more than uncertified nurses, averaging over $50,000 a year.

Education Requirements

Critical-care nurses are required to earn a master's of science in nursing (MSN) degree from an accredited nursing program. During the MSN program, students will focus their studies around a specialized area of nursing practice.

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