Critical Care Nurse – Information On This Vital Registered Nurse Job

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The Critical Care Nurse is a specialty within nursing that deals specifically with human responses to life-threatening problems. A critical care nurse is a licensed professional nurse that is in charge of making certain all critically ill patients as well as their families get optimal treatment.

Even though very sick and complicated patients have always been with us, the method of the critical care nurse is fairly modern. Since improvements have been created in medicine and health technology, patient care is now far more sophisticated. To deliver proper care, nurses required specific knowledge and skills, while health care delivery elements also was required to progress to assist patients needs for constant monitoring and therapy. The initial intensive care units appeared from the 1950s as an approach to deliver treatment to extremely sick patients who required one on one attention from the registered nurse. It had been out of this setting that the specialty of the critical care nurse originated.

Based on the March 1996 report, The Registered Nurse Population, from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), there are 273,850 nurses in the U.S. who care for critically ill patients in the hospital setting. The critical care nurse accounts for approximately 24 percent of the amount of nurses employed in a healthcare facility setting.

Roles Of The Critical Care Nurse

The critical care nurse will practice in settings where patients require complex assessment, high intensity therapies and interventions, and continuous nursing vigilance. The critical care nurse relies upon a specialized body expertise, skills, and experience to deliver care to patients and families that will create environments which are healing, humane, and caring. Foremost, the critical care nurse is a patient advocate.

The critical care nurse works in numerous types of settings, filling many different roles. They may be bedside clinicians, nurse educators, nurse researchers, nurse managers, clinical nurse specialists, and nurse practitioners. Together with the start of managed care and the resulting migration of patients to alternative settings, the critical care nurse is now asked to tend to sicker patients more than ever before.

Managed care has additionally fueled an increasing interest in advanced practice nurses in the acute- and critical-care setting. Advanced practice nurses have received advanced education at the masters or doctoral level. Within the critical care setting, they’re most often Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS) and Acute-Care Nurse Practitioners (ACNPs). They demonstrate a high level of independence and in many states, they are now entitled to direct financial reimbursement, much like physicians.

A CNS is an expert clinician in a particular specialty, critical care in this case. The CNS is in charge of the identification and treatment of clinical issues as well as in the treatments for those problems to enhance care for patients and families. They offer direct patient care, such as assessing, diagnosing, planning and prescribing pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic management of medical problems.

ACNPs, in the critical-care setting, concentrate on making clinical decisions associated with complex patient care problems encountered within the acute-care setting. Their routines include health background and risk appraisal, interpretation of diagnostic tests and offering treatment, that can consist of prescribing medication.

Critical Care Nurse Specialties

The critical care nurse specialty includes the sub-specialties of adult, pediatric, and neonatal nursing practice.

Critical Care Nurse Practice Settings

Based on the March 1996 DHHS report, 60 percent of all nurses are employed in a medical facility setting. Within the hospital setting, the critical care nurse is found wherever there are critically ill patients: intensive-care units (ICUs); pediatric ICUs, neonatal ICUs, cardiac care units, cardiac catheter labs, telemetry units, progressive care units, emergency departments, and recovery rooms. Increasingly, the critical care nurse will are employed in home health, managed care organizations, nursing schools, outpatient surgery centers, clinics, and flight units.

Critical Care Nurse Qualifications

The critical care nurse should have education and training over and above his or her fundamental training as a registered nurse (RN) to satisfy the requirements of patients and families that are encountering critical illness. The typical critical care nurse will complete a critical care study course or orientation that features important facts about the concern of the critically ill patient.

Though certification is not required for practice in a specialty like critical care, many nurses decide to become certified. Some organizations would rather employ certified nurses because they are likely to exhibit a greater degree of expertise within their specialty and frequently have more specialty practice experience. The certified critical care nurse (CCRNs) confirm their understanding by passing a thorough test and by meeting extensive continuing education and clinical experience requirements.

Critical Care Nurse Salary Range

The critical care nurse salary may differ by location, practice setting, and also the size of the institution. Additional factors that influence salary are educational level, experience, and position. The escalating nursing shortage is particularly severe within the specialized sections of nursing. Hospitals are providing the critical care nurse ever more appealing incentives such as generous sign-on bonuses, relocation bonuses, and reimbursement and other attractive benefits.

Based on a current membership questionnaire done with the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, 50% of the total regular membership revealed the following annual salary ranges:

$24,999 or below ( 4%)
$25,000 to 39,999 (18%)
$40,000 to 54,999 (39%)
$55,000 to 74,999 (29%)
$75,000 + ( 8%)

According to a 2010 salary survey of 2,784 nurses by, the typical annual salary for full-time nurses is $43,980. The salaries of certified nurses were compared with nurses who aren’t certified and results revealed that some 23 percent of certified nurses earn over $50,000 yearly. Only 11 percent of nurses who aren’t certified in a specialty earn more than $50,000.


To become a registered nurse, and then a critical care nurse, one must either earn a diploma in nursing, an associates degree in nursing (ADN), or a bachelors degree in nursing (BSN) and pass a national licensing exam. The requirements vary from state to state and are dictated by each states Board of Nursing. Many nursing schools offer students exposure to critical care, but most of a critical-care nurses specialty education and orientation are provided by his or her employer. Advanced practice nurses must earn an advanced degree, either at the masters or doctoral level. If you are interested in becoming a critical care nurse, check out the following resources:

American Association of Critical-Care Nurses
101 Columbia
Aliso Viejo, CA 92656-1491
E-Mail: [email protected]
Web site:

Society of Critical Care Medicine
8101 East Kaiser Boulevard, 3rd Floor
Anaheim, CA 92808-2259
Fax: (312) 601-4501
E-Mail: [email protected]
Web site: