Critical care nurses have specialized training in caring for hospitalized patients who are suffering from serious life-threatening illnesses. They must know how to use complex medical equipment and monitoring systems and they are often expected to administer a complicated regimen of medications. Critical care patients must be watched around the clock in case there are any changes in their health status. Critical care nurses often work in post-operative and intensive-care units in hospitals but some work in emergency departments.
Many critical care nurses specialize in adult pediatric or neonatal intensive care because different kinds of expertise are needed for these age groups. Most critical care nurses are registered nurses (RN) which means they have an associate's degree in nursing and bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN) although some earn a nursing diploma that is granted by a hospital program.
Some critical care nurses have a master's of science in nursing. Critical care nurses must pass an exam to become certified by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN). However most start out as staff nurses to gain experience before they start working in critical care units. The work of a critical care nurse can be physically and mentally demanding. The hours can include night shifts weekends holidays and overtime.
Critical care nurses are responsible for patients whose illnesses are often painful and even terminal. The website Edu.nursinglink.com reports that the employment outlook for critical care nurses is good and the median annual salary in the United States is approximately $62000. Starting salaries are in the $30000 to $40000 range but with experience critical care nurses can earn approximately $85000.