Critical Care Nursing

Critical care nurses are responsible for the optimal care of acutely and critically ill patients. These patients are facing the most life-threatening problems with varying needs. Critical care nurses face the additional responsibility for the emotional and psychosocial health of the patient, family and significant others. Their patients are of any diagnosis and of any age — neonatal, pediatric, or adult. Some patients may need brief care while others need critical care long term.

The idea of critical care nursing is fairly recent to come about. Intensive care units were first put into practice during the 1950s in order for nurses to care with very ill patients on a one-on-one basis. Critical care nurses must have highly advanced and specialized knowledge and experience for the care the most acutely ill patients. The nurses are skilled in the operation of the most advanced equipment and technology. Critically ill patients are highly unstable and vulnerable, and thus require vigilant and constant nursing care. Patients also require sophisticated interventions and complex treatments.

Critical care nursing encompasses a variety of roles, foremost that of patient advocate. As a patient advocate, the critical care nurse supports the basic rights, values and beliefs of the patient. Other roles include that of educator to the patient and family. The patient and family must also be provided with a healing and caring environment. As a researcher, the critical care nurse helps to discover new ways to treat, diagnose and prevent conditions of the critically ill patients.

The critical care nurse works in hospital settings wherever patients are critically ill. This includes intensive care units (ICUs), cardiac care units, neonatal ICUs, pediatric ICUs, telemetry units, progressive care units, emergency departments, recovery rooms, and cardiac catheter labs. Outside of the hospital setting, critical care nursing is increasingly found in long-term care facilities, outpatient surgery centers, and home health.

To become involved in critical care nursing, you will need an advanced nursing degree. The University of Phoenix offers the following online nursing degree programs:
» Bachelor of Science in Nursing (Click for more info)
» Master of Science in Nursing (Click for more info)
» Or see online LPN to BSN, RN to BSN, or general nursing programs

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