The employment of registered nurses is expected to experience a much faster growth than the average for all occupations, about 22 percent from 2008 to 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. While all types of nurses will experience a demand for their expertise, there will be a need for some specializations more than others. Among them is a nursing specialty that concerns the life-or-death decisions of patient care: critical care nursing.
The job of a critical care nurse is to provide care for high-risk patients that have either actual or potentially life-threatening health issues. These types of nurses are responsible for ensuring that both critically-ill patients and their families receive the best possible care. They must rely on their experience, skills, and knowledge to provide this care, as well as create comfortable and caring environments. Critical-care nurses may find themselves interceding for their patients in emergency situations, monitoring the quality of care their patient is receiving, and providing education to assist the patient and families in critical decisions.
Critical-care nurses work anywhere critically ill patients are, such as emergency departments, intensive care units, cardiac care units, telemetry units, cardiac catheter labs, progressive care units, and recovery rooms. According to 2004 study by the Department of Health and Human Services, “The Registered Nurse Population,” critical care nurses account for 37 percent of the total number of nurses that work in hospitals. Of those, 229,914 spent at least half of their time in an intensive care unit, 92,826 in step-down or transitional care unit, 117,637 in emergency departments, and 62,747 in post-operative recovery. But job opportunities are not limited to hospitals because these types of nurses also work in nursing schools, home healthcare, managed care organizations, health clinics, and outpatient surgery centers.
Critical care nurses must be able to think and act quickly in high-stress situations. They must be constantly attentive to their patients as they require high-intensity therapies and complex assessments. If you want to be a critical-care nurse, you must first earn your license as a registered nurse. Since replication of an intensive-care unit is impossible, most training has to occur through experience. While certification is not required to work in critical care, if you want to validate your experience you can become a Certified Critical Care Nurse. Certification can be earned by practicing a minimum of two years in critical care and then taking an examination through the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses Certification Corporation.