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Critical Care Nurse Job Description, Career as a Critical Care Nurse, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training:— Specialized training

Salary: Median— $61,983 annually

Employment Outlook:— Good

Critical care nurses look after patients suffering from serious, acute, and complex ailments or injuries. They specialize in dealing with patients who need to be closely monitored. Critical care nurses are also trained to adhere to medications or therapies that have complex protocols. In addition, they need to have expertise in handling sophisticated medical equipment.

Critical care nurses work in post operative, intensive care, and other high dependency units in hospitals. They often specialize in fields like adult intensive care, pediatric intensive care, or neonatal intensive care because treatment modes differ for patients of different age groups.

Education and Training Requirements

Most critical care nurses are registered nurses. To become registered nurses, candidates must have either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing, or a diploma in nursing. Associate of Science in Nursing (ADN), and Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees are offered by colleges while diplomas are offered by hospitals. Master of Science in Nursing degree programs may be taken up by those who have a bachelor’s degree in the health care field.

To obtain a nursing license, candidates must pass the NCLEX-RN examination. Further certification is generally required for critical care nurses. Certification is provided by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN). The AACN provides advanced certifications in areas like adult, neonatal and pediatric critical care, cardiac medicine, and nurse managers and leaders.

Critical care nurses are required to be familiar with hemodynamic and cardiac monitoring systems, intra-aortic balloon pumps, ventricular assisting devices, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation circuits, mechanical ventilator therapy, and other life support equipment. Manufacturers and networks of hospitals provide training through experienced operators.

Getting the Job

Critical care nurses usually begin their careers as nursing aides or practical nurses. On obtaining the RN (Registered Nurse) degree, one can find employment as staff nurses in hospitals. It is then necessary to get certified by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses. This certification does not automatically enable one to work as a critical care nurse but employers take cognizance of it because of the stringent tests that have to be passed in order to obtain the certificate.

Job openings in critical care nursing are generally advertised in the classified section of newspapers and on Internet job portals. One can also directly approach local health care facilities for suitable employment opportunities.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Critical care nurses may advance from positions like assistant unit manger to higher levels like head nurse on the basis of experience and expertise. They may be offered administrative positions like chief nurse, assistant director, director, or vice president if they have the requisite communication and leadership skills. Critical care nurses may also shift to academics and work as a faculty in colleges or universities.

Employment opportunities in the field of critical care nursing are expected to be better than those of other occupations. Technological advances in intensive medical care will increase the demand for highly trained critical care nurses. Increase in the number of elderly patients needing critical care will also contribute to the growth in job opportunities. In addition, the need for fresh nursing faculty is expected to increase.

Working Conditions

Most critical care nurses work in well lit and clean environments. However, the work hours are often odd, and one may have to be available for night shifts. In stressful situations, working overtime is not unusual. The job also involves a significant amount of physical stress.

Like all other nurses, critical care nurses have to observe rigorous guidelines while dealing with patients suffering from infectious diseases. They are also exposed to occupational dangers like accidental needle pricks, radiation, and electric shocks. In addition, they have to deal with the emotional strain of witnessing suffering and pain on a daily basis.

Where to Go for More Information

American Association of Critical-Care Nurses
101 Columbia
Aliso Viejo, CA 92656-4109

World Federation of Societies of Intensive and Critical Care Medicine

American Association of Colleges of Nursing
1 Dupont Circle NW., Suite 530
Washington DC 20036

American Nurses Association
8515 Georgia Avenue, Suite 400
Silver Spring, MD 20910-3492

World Federation of Critical Care Nurses

Salary, Earnings and Benefits

The median annual salary of critical care nurses in the United States is $61,983. In 2006, 10% of the highest paid nurses reported annual salaries of $83,440. The earnings depend largely on the experience and training of the nurse, the geographical setting, and the size of the employing organization. Starting salaries of critical care nurses may be in the range of $30,000 to $40,000 annually, while those in the higher management levels can earn up to $120,000 per year. Benefits like childcare, healthcare, bonuses, educational expenses, and pensions are offered by many employers and are comparable with those offered in other industries.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesHealth & Medicine