Critical Care Nursing 101 – Job Description And Career Guide

A critical care nurse is an experienced registered nurse that provides patient care to those who are critically (very badly) injured or ill. These nurses are also known as ICU nurses. It is the nurse’s job to provide proper and appropriate medical care to these patients. The goal is to ease them through the recovery and rehabilitation process.

It is rare to find LPNs or nurse assistants in this role.  Critical care need to have the knowledge and experience to deal with severely ill or injured patients. That is very pertinent to a nurse’s success in this critical care role. LPNs and nurse assistants can provide support to these critical care nurses.

It is important that these patients are treated with carefully and with proper care.  Critical care nurses use the nursing process to deliver proper care to their patients. They are also very sensitive to the patient’s emotions and feelings throughout the recovery process.

These nurses can operate advanced medical machinery and are certified in many forms of life support that include:

Advanced Life Support
Advanced Cardiac Life Support
Pediatric Advanced Life Support
Basic Life Support
Neonatal Resuscitation
– Critical Care Nursing
– CPR and many more

What Does A Typical Day In The Life Of A Critical Care Nurse Look Like?

​Most days in the hospital, a critical care nurse is performing assessments of patients. They are providing intense therapies and interventions  for the patients to maximize recovery. They operate and maintain small life support systems in critical situations.

Other duties include:

– Assessing a patient’s condition
– Planning and Implementing patient care plans
– Treating wounds and providing basic and advanced life support
– Assisting physicians in performing basic and advanced procedures
– Observing and recording a patient’s vital signs
– Ensuring all medical equipment operates properly
– Administering intravenous fluids and medications
– Ordering Diagnostic Tests
– Responding to critical situations with the medical team
– Being an advocate for the patient
– Providing education and emotional support to the patient and his/her family on the illness or injury suffered by the patient.

Critical nurses must be good at making decisions and using proper judgement in order to do their jobs effectively. They make the proper decisions with the information they have.

Where Do Critical Care Nurses Work?

These nurses can be found working in emergency rooms, trauma centers, high dependency units, critical care centers, general and medical intensive care, trauma and adult intensive care, surgical and cardio thoracic intensive care, pediatric and neonatal intensive care, ambulances, flight crafts, coronary care units, and other emergency or critical care fields.  They usually never in a patient’s home.

How To Become A Critical Care Nurse?

First off, an aspiring critical care nurse must achieve their ADN or BSN from their local community college or university. Then pass their National Council Licensure Examination to become a registered nurse. Then you can start applying for jobs and working as an RN.

After getting hired into a critical or intensive care unit, the nurse will receive additional training and education in critical care. These nurses later get certified in critical care (CCRN) as specialty of registered nursing. From there, nurses are required to take a certain amount of education hours to stay up to date with their certification.

There are also sub-specialties that critical care nurses can be certified in. These include but are not limited to:

– Pediatric Care
– Neonatal Care
– Surgical Care
– Cardiac Medicine
– Progressive Care
– Cardiac Surgery
– Advanced Practice (usually obtained after getting an MSN)

Critical Care Nurse Salary Facts

These specialty nurses make more money than the average registered nurse. This is because these nurses require more training and education. Also, this specialty can be highly labor demanding for the nurse. Working in the intensive care unit can be very stressful. Therefore not many nurses want to do that.

The average salaries for a critical care nurse are just above $70,000. Experienced critical care nurses with over ten years of experience and an MSN can make just over $100,000 in salary. Not too bad. Nurses with less experience and education make less in salary.

See also Normal lab values nursing


​Critical care is a very dynamic profession. The environment in the intensive care unit can change in an instant. These nurse have the education and experience to handle these situations. They thrive in the medical field due to their deep and vast knowledge of patient care.

Also, working in the intensive care unit as a critical care nurse is a great job for a nurse just out of school. If you are looking to rack up some good experience before going back to graduate school then this is a good place to work. Graduate schools like nurse applications with critical care and/or emergency room experience.

Remember Success a rebellion. You need to put in the time to see the results you desire. Nothing comes over night.