Critical Care Nursing

What is a Critical Care Nurse?

A critical care nurse works directly at the bedside with acutely ill patients, and are required to take an exam to become certified as a critical care nurse (CCRN). 
Critical care nurses generally work in the hospital setting in areas such as:

  • Surgical Intensive Care Units (SICUs),
  • Medical Intensive Care Units (MICUs),
  • Neurologic Intensive Care Units (ICUs),
  • Cardiovascular Intensive Care Units (CVICUs),
  • Pediatric Intensive Care Units (PICUs),
  • Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs),
  • Or even as flight nurses. 


How to become a critical care nurse

All critical care nurses have graduated from an accredited college program to obtain a registered nurse (RN) license.
If you are a new nursing graduate and looking to get into critical care nursing, you may have the opportunity to enroll in your facility’s critical care internship program.  The critical care internship programs generally will take between 4 months to one year before you are able to practice independently in the unit.  Other hospitals will require you to work a minimum of one to two years in another area of nursing, such as medical/surgical or cardiovascular, before obtaining or beginning training in a position within an ICU. 
In addition, critical care nurses will obtain specialized training in other areas including Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS), Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS)/Trauma Nurse Core Course (TNCC), cardiology, IV therapy, surgery/post operative care, endoscopy, and neurology. 
Critical care nurses need to be able to think on their feet and be able to manage many different patients with many medical problems.  Critical care nurses also work with many different types of equipment, machines, and medications that are specific to the critical care area. 
It is also possible to become certified as a critical care nurse.  In order to qualify to sit for the critical care nursing exam (CCRN), you must have worked for a minimum of 1,750 hours at the bedside of acutely or critically ill patients within the last two years. 

Critical Care Nurse Salary

Generally critical care nurses can expect to make between $65,000 to $85,000 per year.  A critical care nurse’s salary can vary based on years of experience, additional training, and maintenance of a CCRN certification.  Critical care nurses often will be paid more than other nursing positions within the hospital due to specialized experience.  Your facility may also pay you additional monies to maintain your CCRN certification.



Ask an Expert

Q:How is a critical care nurse salary determined?

A:Critical nurses take care of patients admitted in the ICU units in hospitals. They are trained and skilled to provide healthcare services to such patients. The income level depends upon a number of factors such as qualifications, certifications, training, license, and state. This field of nursing is expected to grow in the coming years.

Q:Can you please describe critical care nursing?

A:Critical care nursing focuses on care of the critically ill patients. This field of healthcare has emerged as a popular nursing specialty. Critical care nurses often work in the ICU department of hospitals and clinics. Their main job role is to provide care to patients, administer mediation, and respond to any emergency. One must have a certification and a license to work as critical care nurse.

Q:Can you name a certification board for critical care nursing?

A:The American Association of Critical Care Nurses is the one of the leading boards that offer certification in this nursing specialty. You can seek certification from this board. The board also oversees critical care nursing programs being offered by institutes all over the nation. To find out more, take a look at our page.

Q:What can I do with a critical care nursing certification?

A:After completing a certification in critical care nursing, you can work as a critical care nurse. These professional are found working in the ICU or CCU units in hospitals. They are required to attend to patients suffering from serious illnesses. The demand for certified nurses is high. Take a look at our page for more information.

Q:How will I study in an online critical care nursing course?

A:Many schools are no offering online nursing programs. This mode of learning is flexible and is gaining popularity fast. If you enroll in an online critical care nursing course, you will study with the help of tutorials, lectures, online conferencing, videos, slideshows, and presentation. All you need is a computer and an internet connection to study online.

Q:Is critical care nursing made incredibly easy if I opt for online learning?

A:Critical care nursing is a specialty field that focuses upon the treatment of patients in critical condition. Individuals must have a certification and complete training in this area. Online programs in this field have proved to be flexible and convenient as compared to campus-based degrees. This mode of learning is also more accessible and affordable.

Q:As I was reading about critical care nursing quarterly, I came across the growth rate of nurses in the healthcare sector. Why is the demand high?

A:Nurses make up the largest sector of workers in the healthcare industry. In recent years, the employment of nurses has grown all over the nation. This can be due to population factors and healthcare trends. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected an increased employment demand for nurses for the coming years.

Q:Can you please describe a few of the duties of a critical care registered nurse?

A:Critical care RNs are professionals who work in the emergency or ICU units of hospitals. These nurses are trained to treat patients suffering from chronic diseases of deadly illnesses. Critical care nurses provide intensive therapy and treatment. From assessing a patient's progress to administering medication, these nurses perform a wide range of activities.

Q:To become a critical care nurse practitioner, do I need to become an RN first?

A:Yes, in most cases, earning a registered nursing degree is important for a job as a critical care nurse. You will have to work as RN in a hospital setting and further pursue specialized study in critical care. These nurses must be highly skilled and certified by a recognized association. Take a look at our page for more detail.

Q:If I enroll in critical care nursing classes, what will I learn basically?

A:The coursework of a critical care nursing program is geared towards preparing students for careers as critical care nurses. The program will enable students to develop analytical and awareness skills. Students will learn how to treat patients in critical care units, and develop extensive and effective treatment plans. The coursework is divided up into theory-based learning and practical learning.

Q:Please tell me about the basic duties of a certified critical care nurse?

A:Certified critical care nurses are responsible for: providing care to critically ill patients, administering medication, reviewing progress and responsiveness of the patient, monitoring patients vital signs, monitoring medical equipment such as the life support machine, assisting doctors and reviewing medical history, and more. Take a look at our page for more information.

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