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Critical Care Nursing

What is Critical Care Nursing?

Critical care nursing deals with patients who are in critical condition. This means that the patients cared for by these individuals are critically ill or injured. The patients' vital signs are abnormal or not stable, and they may not be conscious while the care is being provided. Caring for these patients is challenging, as they must be monitored closely and their conditions can change at any moment. The outlook for these patients is not always positive, so critical care nursing can also be emotionally demanding. When a patient's condition improves, he or she is moved out of critical care to another unit.

What Should I Expect When Working as a Critical Care Nurse?

Nurses who work in critical care should expect a fast-paced, challenging work environment. Working in critical care may also be emotionally demanding due to the life-threatening conditions of patients cared for in this setting. Critical care nurses are patient advocates who rely on a specific and specialized set of experience, skills, and knowledge in order to provide caring, healing, and humane environments for patients and their families.

What are the Education and Certification Requirements?

The first step to becoming a critical care nurse is to complete an accredited registered nursing education program and earn a diploma, associate's degree, or bachelor's degree in nursing. After graduation, the individual must pass the NCLEX-RN and apply for an RN license. According to Johnson & Johnson, one must work in critical care for 2 years before he or she can become certified as a critical care nurse. A variety of specialized critical care certifications are available through the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN).

Critical care nurses can also return to school to pursue an advanced degree, such as an MSN or DNP, in specializations geared toward a certain subset of patients (i.e. geriatrics or pediatrics). This higher level of education helps nurses to move into leadership positions and other more autonomous roles.

What is the Average Salary and Job Outlook of a Critical Care Nurse?

Salary information is subject to change, and often depends on the employer, and an individual's experience and education level. According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), the median salary for registered nurses in 2010 was $64,690, with salaries ranging from about $44,000 to approximately $95,000.

The job outlook for registered nurses is excellent, with 26% expected growth between 2010 and 2020.

  • Registered Nurses: This links to the official entry in the Occupational Outlook Handbook that was put together by the Bureau of labor Statistics at the United States Department of Labor. On this site you will find information on the career as a registered nurse that ranges from the nature of the work, to education requirements and what to expect in the future for job opportunities.
  • American Nurses Association: This is the largest organization for nurses in the United States. This site provides you with information on careers and credentialing, professional nursing practice, government affairs, nursing ethics and health care policy.
  • American Association of Critical-Care Nurses: This links to the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses and provides you with information on clinical practice, certification and education. This comprehensive site also provides you with the opportunity to join the association as a member.
  • Society of Critical Care Medicine: This is the official link to the home page of the Society of Critical Care Medicine. This society is the largest organization that serves multi-professionals in all aspects of critical care. Membership consists of over 15,000 members that are spread across over 100 countries.
  • American Journal of Critical Care: This link provides you with the opportunity to subscribe to the American Journal of Critical Care. This journal covers a wide range of information from gastrointestinal issues to pediatric resuscitation.
  • Critical Care Nursing: This link provides you with a wide range of information in the critical care nursing subfield as provided by Medscape News. This site provides you with informational articles on different aspects of this industry as well as the latest news related to critical care nursing.
  • Emergency Nurses Association: This site provides you with information such as courses and education, publications, products, media information and the opportunity to join the Emergency Nurses Association as a member.
  • National Council of State Boards of Nursing: This is the link to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. This site provides you with information on education, servicing and research information on the industry. You will also find information on the RN examination and have the option as joining as a member.
  • Critical Care Nursing Of Infants & Children – A downloadable book about the critical care nursing of infants and children by Martha A.Q. Curley (University of Pennsylvania) and Patricia A. Moloney Harmon (The Children’s Hospital at Sinai).
  • Critical Care Nursing Patients – Information on becoming a critical care nurse including sample courses of study as well as information on managing the critical adult patient.