The Ins and Outs of the Critical Care Nursing Field

Whenever the term critical care is mentioned – most people immediately think about severely sick patients in intensive care units or ICUs. They are not mistaken. Intensive Care Units and Critical Care specialized areas in the hospital that care for patients in need of intense and one on one attention. These are the areas where a critical care nurse Practices.

What is a Critical Care Nurse

A Critical Care Nurse or a CCN is a highly specialized nurse that has been trained to work in Intensive Care areas. They are nurses that care for patients who are severely ill and in need of individualized care. A CCN cares for patients of all diagnoses and gender. Patients may vary depending on this category. Critical care nurses also deal with complex technology that helps sustain patients.

The History

This type of nursing is a relatively new nursing specialty. It wasn’t until the 1950′s that the very first Intensive Care Units appeared in the Western world. These units were created to deal with gravely ill patients. They were considered to need a more intensive form of care compared to the patients in the regular wards. The notion of an intensive care unit quickly spread. Today, most hospitals are required to have these specialized areas and in turn specialized nurses and physicians to run them.

Back then, nurses assigned in CCUs and ICUs were not seen as different from regular ward RNs. It was only a few years later that CCN was considered as a specialized nursing field.

Roles of a CCN

Like any other registered nurse, the roles of the critical care nurse are very complex. These nurses have to deal with severely ill patients. They also need to be familiar with complex technologies that are continually present in a critical care setting. The critical care nurse also has to know basic and advance life support. Such skills may be called upon at any point during his/her service.

The critical care nurse must also be skilled in the art of diagnosis. He/she must be able to diagnose and identify a patient’s immediate needs. This part of nursing is important as it may be the difference between life and death for a patient. Nonetheless, the nurse must remember that despite being skilled at diagnosis, one must not overstep her boundaries and perform roles reserved for a physician alone.

Aside from dealing with patients and their needs, the CCN also has to deal with the patient’s family. The CCN often works as a counselor that helps the family get through the crisis at hand. He/she may have to deal with questions and concerns from the patient’s immediate family and significant others.

Qualifications and Requirements

IN THE PHILIPPINES – Locally, any registered nurse can become a critical care nurse. It is only a matter of area assignment. Most of the time, nurses who are assigned in critical care units are those who have shown promise in their previous areas of exposure. They are also the ones who have worked in similar areas such as medical/surgical or pediatric units.

ABROAD – Abroad, in the US specifically, there are no specialized requirement to be a critical care nurse other than an RN License. However, there are bodies of authority that certify CCNs.

Although, certification is not required, most CCNs abroad are choosing to go for it because it increases their credibility. Employers also often require their CCNs to be certified in the field. Certification is achieved post graduation. It is not something taught in school. Some schools may expose their students to ICUs, but this is not considered enough for certification. The RNs get their CCN certificates while they are on the job. It is also often sponsored by the employer.

Work Opportunities in the Philippine Nursing Scene

There are a lot of opportunities to become a critical care nurse in the Philippines. But, nurses have to understand that these critical care units are often hard to get into. These units only require a limited number of nurses. Most of the time there are only a total of 12 nurses that work in a typical ICU with 8-10 beds.

Those who do get into these areas are considered lucky because their position opens great opportunities to work abroad. In most settings, CCNs have a lesser work load compared to nurses in large wards. Patients in ICUs need more attention but the numbers are much smaller compared to wards. A typical government hospital ward may hold 50-70 patients and with only a nurse or two to manage it.

Work Abroad

There are a lot of work opportunities for a critical care nurse abroad. The CCN can work in any area where there is an intensive care unit. Certification is often an option provided by employers to deserving and promising nurses. The employers are often the ones who fund certification seminars and the likes.

With the present shortage in nursing manpower, hospitals are clamoring to get their hands on specialized nurses. These employers would often offer big sign-in bonuses just to get a nurse to work with them. The average salary of a critical care nurse in the US often ranges from USD50,000 – USD 75,000. It is estimated that nearly 70% of the critical care nurse population earn that much. Some earn slightly lower while others earn upward

How to Become a Critical Care Nurse

A critical care nurse is a professional who deals with seriously ill patients in the intensive care unit. They do not only care for the patients, but also help doctors administer treatment and monitor the conditions of the patients. The service of critical care nurses is highly important and can mean the difference between success and failure of a medical endeavor. In some cases, they can also save the lives of patients. As such, a career in critical nursing can be very stressful and requires extraordinary commitment and genuine passion to help others. Although it is a challenging job, it can also bring great fulfillment. If you wish to become a nurse, it is advantageous to know exactly what the job entails.

Job Profile

The duties of a critical care nurse include caring for patients, checking and monitoring the vital signs of patients, administering appropriate medicines and helping doctors perform treatments. As a critical nurse, your job is more pressurizing than that of a regular nurse as a result of the critical nature of the illnesses of the patients under your care. When critical symptoms show, you must act in an efficient manner to ensure that the appropriate treatment will be administered as soon as possible. You also have to work with many different kinds of medical equipment, including life support systems.

What It Takes to Become a Critical Care Nurse

To become a successful nurse, you must be very attentive as you will be required to provide information regarding patients to the doctors. You are responsible for detecting symptoms in patients and must be constantly prepared for the unexpected as life-threatening symptoms may present at anytime. It is also important that you possess strong knowledge of medications and treatment methods, as well as their effects on patients. You will be required to work closely with doctors and must be prepared to work long hours when emergencies occur. Attention to detail, a strong will and calmness are some of the traits that you need to possess to excel in the field of critical care nursing.

Education Requirements

An education in nursing is a must for anyone who wishes to become a critical care nurse. There are many schools that offer excellent nursing courses and programs that are appropriate for a critical nursing career. If you want to learn the basics of nursing, you can opt for a diploma or Associate Degree in nursing. A Bachelor’s Degree or Master’s Degree in nursing will prepare you for greater career advancement, making you eligible for top critical care nursing positions in the best medical facilities. Typically, nursing programs cover areas of study such as human anatomy, illnesses, medications, and nursing procedures. After obtained the required nursing education, you must obtain an advanced practice certification or a cardiac care certification before you seek employment.

Career Opportunities and Salary

Critical care nurses are in high demand nowadays and you can be assured that you win a great position once you have graduated from nursing school. Most critical care nurses work in hospitals, but there are some who work in nursing schools, outpatient surgery centers, clinics, nursing schools and private homes. With enough experience serving as a critical care nurse, you can get promoted to become a nurse practitioner, or you can even opt to become a professor in a nursing school. The average salary for a critical care nurse is $65,000 a year which may change based on the individuals drive and experience.