Critical Care Nurse Video: Educational Requirements for Critical Care Nurses

Critical Care Nurse Video: Educational Requirements for Critical Care Nurses Transcript

Intensive care units and emergency rooms provide the greatest career opportunities for critical care nurses. These medical professionals treat patients who are unstable or in critical condition. They assist doctors during treatment and monitor the condition of their patients. An associate's or bachelor's degree in Nursing is required along with a state-issued Registered Nursing certification to become a critical care nurse. Optional professional certifications in critical care nursing are also available.


Patients in need of critical care include those recovering from surgery and those receiving treatment for life-threatening injuries, illnesses and diseases. Critical care nurses monitor patients and provide them with medication and other care. They work closely with doctors, surgeons and other nurses to help their patients on the road to recovery.

Job Duties and Skills

Working with patients in critical condition requires specialized skills. While critical care nurses perform many of the same basic duties of all registered nurses, assisting physicians, comforting family members and administering medication, they also perform duties specific to their chosen specialty.

Critically ill and injured patients require constant attention. Vital signs are checked and recorded every 15 to 20 minutes. Critical care nurses also monitor life support equipment. They are also prepared to perform life-saving procedures and to assist doctors as they work to bring patients back from the brink of death. Patients in intensive care often have surgical incisions or other wounds that must be cleaned and dressed by critical care nurses.

Unlike other hospital wards, where nurses may treat a half dozen or more patients simultaneously, most critical care nurses are assigned one to three patients at a time. This is to allow critical care nurses to give each patient the attention they require. Too heavy a caseload can reduce the quality of treatment offered to critical patients.

Training Required

While certification beyond the required registered nursing (R.N.) license is not required, many critical care nurses do earn an optional professional certification. The American Association of Critical Care Nurses (A.A.C.N.) allows nurses with two years of professional experience to sit for an exam that can qualify them as a Certified Critical Care Nurse (C.C.R.N.). The exam tests candidates on their knowledge of critical care skills.

The A.A.C.N. also offers an advanced practice certification for clinical nurse specialists. To qualify for this certification, registered nurses must complete coursework and licensing requirements to become a clinical nurse specialist, which vary from state to state. The Critical Care Nurse Specialist (C.C.N.S.) certification is encouraged by many employers.

Of course, all clinical care nurses should begin by earning a bachelor's or associate's degree in Nursing and obtaining the R.N. certification by passing the NCLEX-RN licensing exam and completing any other requirements for the state-issued license.

Career Options

Over 50 percent of all nursing professionals work in a hospital setting. This percentage is even higher for critical care nurses who work mainly in Intensive Care Units (I.C.U.). However, demand for these wards is growing with even the smallest hospitals having an I.C.U. and many larger hospitals having specialized care units, including those for pediatric, neonatal and surgical patients.

Emergency room positions are also available. But most patients who arrive in an emergency room are not critical. This requires nurses in these roles to assist on a variety of cases, in addition to treating critically ill or injured patients. Some critical care nurses may also work as home health care professionals, providing needed care to patients who are not receiving care in a hospital setting. Additionally, the recent growth of the field of critical care nursing has resulted in the need for qualified educators. Experienced critical care nurses may be able to teach courses or mentor student nurses, depending on their educational credentials.

A master's degree in Nursing or a Nurse Practitioner certification can increase career opportunities, especially opportunities for advancements. Professionals with these qualifications may start their own practices, be promoted to management positions or simply have increased responsibilities and privileges in their workplace.


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