If you want to help people as a nurse but also want a challenge, you should find out what a critical care nurse does. Critical care nurses provide specialized care to some of the sickest patients, according to Houston Chronicle – and they sometimes must care for patients they may not be able to save.

The Role of a Critical Care Nurse

Critical care refers to the care of patients who have acute and often life-threatening medical conditions. Because these conditions call for close, constant monitoring and treatment, these patients are typically cared for in the intensive care units (ICUs) found in hospitals, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The critical care nurses who work in ICUs take cares of patients at all stages of care. Sometimes they are the first to see and assess patients in dire need of medical care, while at other times they are the last ones to tend to a patient that can’t be saved.

Patients who are ill enough to require intensive care also require intensive monitoring and medical intervention. While on the job, critical care nurses handle all kinds of equipment, such as monitoring equipment that tracks the patient’s blood pressure, pressure inside the brain and breathing as well as life support machines. Critical care nurses can’t afford to get sidetracked by the complex equipment they manage. They need to be there for their patients – many of whom have difficulty communicating or may even be unconscious.

Coordinating care is an integral part of what a critical care nurse does. Life in the ICU can sometimes get hectic, and patients often have many different healthcare professionals treating them. It’s up to the critical care nurse to help keep everything organized and make sure everyone involved in the patient’s care knows about any changes. Critical care nurses also communicate with the patient’s family and offer emotional support.

Unfortunately, not every ICU patient can be saved. Critical care nurses are often the ones talking with the family at the patient’s final moments. If the family decides to donate their loved one’s organs, a critical care nurse helps make sure every organ that can be used is in the best condition.

How to Become a Critical Care Nurse

The first step to becoming a critical care nurse is earning your nursing degree. To do what a critical care nurse does, you need to be an “expert clinician,” the Houston Chronicle reported.

Both associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs in nursing can prepare you to become a registered nurse (R.N.), the BLS reported. However, employers are increasingly looking for candidates with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.) degree. Many registered nurses who started with an associate’s degree now go back to school to complete an R.N. to B.S.N. program. In addition to attaining your nursing license, you will need training in Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS). You may wish to earn Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN) certification from the American Association of Critical–Care Nurses.

Though critical care nursing isn’t right for everyone, it’s an essential and rewarding career. What a critical care nurse does is take on some of the toughest challenges in the field of nursing.

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