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Healthcare In Five: Critical Care Nurse

Each year, millions of patients receive care in intensive care units across the United States. The registered nurses who are responsible for providing care to them are critical care nurses (CCNs). Critical care nursing is a high-intensity, highly attentive nursing position centered around the care of those who are facing critical, life-threatening illnesses or injuries. While highly demanding, the position is ideal for motivated nurses interested in providing care to those who need it most.


What is a Critical Care Nurse?

Critical care nurses, also known as intensive care nurses, are qualified nursing professionals who work closely with patients experiencing acute illness or injury.


What does a Critical Care Nurse do?

CCNs work together with fellow nurses, physicians, and specialists to provide life-saving care to patients who are facing serious, acute, or prolonged illness or injuries. CCNs perform all the same tasks and responsibilities expected of licensed registered nurses, with particular attention to patient care and compassion for those facing serious injury and illness. They often work closer with patients, providing a more personalized and frequent approach to care. Here are some common responsibilities expected of critical care nursing professionals:

  • Close, attentive monitoring of patient vitals, ventilation, or other life-saving interventions
  • Assessment and monitoring of patient’s illness or injury
  • Administering patient medications and monitoring for improvements or deteriorations
  • Collaborating with physicians, specialists, and other nurses to coordinate care
  • Engage with patients and their families regarding the progress of their care


Where do Critical Care Nurses work?

In most cases, critical care nurses can be found working in hospitals, where the majority of patients in need of critical care services can be found. Within hospitals, they can be found across multiple different departments or wings, with the most common being intensive care units. Since ICU nurses are specifically assigned to work with patients facing critical and life-threatening injuries, their services may be required or requested in other care units when an enhanced level of care is required, including in

  • Trauma units
  • Burn units
  • Pediatric intensive care units
  • Emergency rooms
  • Triage


How do you become a Critical Care Nurse?

The pathway to becoming a critical care nurse includes a combination of academic and professional experience with the opportunity to expand or enhance critical care competencies through professional certification. The starting point of the career typically includes earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from an accredited university, receiving initial licensure and certification, and gaining experience working as a registered nurse in or out of a critical care setting. Nurses who wish to prepare themselves for the role can receive various professional certifications that address a variety of disciplines and specialties within the critical care nursing field. Continue exploring the path:

  • Earn a high school diploma
  • Graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • Receive NCLEX-RN licensure
  • Gain hands-on experience (1-5 years)
  • OPTIONAL: Pursue professional certification


What is the career outlook of a Critical Care Nurse?

Registered nursing holds one of the largest share percentages of healthcare careers in the United States, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics counting over 3.1 million positions and counting available. Not only are CCNs classified as part of this group, but they can receive additional benefits for their enhanced knowledge and expertise – including higher salaries, increased job responsibilities, a more personalized approach to patient care, and additional career advancement opportunities.

The University of Providence’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program lineup can help you take the first step toward a rewarding career as a registered nurse. From our traditional 4-year program for recent high-school graduates and transfers to our accelerated 12-month program for second-degree bachelor degree holders, our mission-focused curriculum will prepare you to deliver quality, patient-centered care.