A hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU) is reserved for the patients that need the most intervention, and ICU nurse training programs teach nurses how to provide that level of care. Many intensive care units are combined with coronary care units, so some ICU nurse training programs are designed to teach nurses how to perform in an ICU/CCU. The demand for qualified ICU nurses is higher now than it’s ever been, and is probably only going to become stronger as time goes on.
A worldwide nursing shortage has left many intensive care units and CCU’s understaffed, leading to problems like the following:
The current average age of practicing nurses has risen to 44.5, and is expected to continued to climb.
Within the next ten years, nearly 40% of nurses are anticipated to be 50+ years old.
Small community hospitals, urban hospitals, and rural hospitals have all reported significant difficulty in recruiting new nurses, including ICU staff.
When hospitals have more RNs on staff, patients are less likely to require re-admittance within thirty days of being discharged.
A recent study of hospitals with higher nurse-to-patient ratios found that patients in these hospitals had a significantly lower risk of developing nosocomial (hospital-acquired) infections and other complications, including sepsis from IV lines, pneumonia from ventilators, and urinary tract infections from catheters.
Considering the critical condition that ICU occupants are in, these statistics are pretty frightening. A shortage of qualified ICU nurses puts a hospital’s most vulnerable patients at an increased risk of serious complications, and even death.
ICU Nurse Training Programs and Licensing
Licensed practical nurses or licensed vocational nurses can work in an Intensive Care Unit, but the majority of ICU, CCU, and ICU/CCU nurses are registered nurses. This means that they have received a bachelor’s degree in nursing, and have passed the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses. Many critical care nurses choose to obtain certification through the American Association of Critical Care Nurses, but this is generally not required.
ICU nurses must be comfortable maintaining and interpreting the data from a variety of medical monitoring devices, including SAT monitors, EKGs, and more. ICU nurse training programs are designed to teach nurses specific health assessment skills, pharmacological interventions, and diagnostic procedures that are used in a critical care setting.
ICU Nurse Scope of Practice
ICU nurses are also referred to as critical care nurses, which is a pretty accurate descriptor for what they do. All states have their own Boards of Nursing, which determine the scope of practice that nurses must follow. Since nurses in ICUs are generally registered nurses, they must adhere to the scope of practice for a registered nurse. This includes collecting data on patients, creating patient care plans based on this data and physician’s recommendations, implementing care plans, evaluating patients’ responses to care, and acting as a patient liaison. Unlike a registered nurse that performs these duties for regular patients, an ICU nurse must perform them for a hospital’s sickest, most injured, and most at-risk patient populations.
Why You Should Become an ICU Nurse
Staff nurses in intensive care units usually earn between $60,000-$73,000 annually. There are also a lot of positions open for staff nurses, particularly for those with advanced degrees. If you’d like a job in a well paying, virtually recession-proof industry, then an ICU nurse may be the job you’re looking for.
The nursing shortage is worsening by the year, and a hospital’s ICU patients are one of the groups that has the most to lose from it. If you want to help save lives that would otherwise be lost to hospital-acquired infections and careless mistakes, then a career as an ICU nurse may be extremely rewarding for you.
ICU nursing isn’t easy, especially when it comes to caring for patients in neonatal or pediatric intensive care units. As physically and emotionally demanding as it may be, these patients need qualified nurses if they’re going to survive. With ICU nurse training, you can become the difference between a healthy patient that get discharged, and a statistic for negative patient care outcomes.