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Critical-Care Nurses Specialize in Saving Lives

Critical-Care Nurses Specialize in Saving Lives

Jennifer LeClaire | Monster Contributing Writer

Critical-care nurses must be RNs. Training occurs on the job, because an intensive-care unit cannot be replicated in a training environment. Experience in this setting carries considerable weight in the job market. A nurse can demonstrate that experience by becoming a Certified Critical Care Nurse (CCRN). To earn this optional AACN designation, nurses must practice at least two years in critical care and pass a rigorous, valid, job-related examination that demonstrates strong critical-thinking abilities.

Beyond certification, critical-care nurses must make a lifelong commitment to learning, says Cathy Cooper, RN, MSN, a per-diem critical-care nurse and assistant professor in the department of nursing systems at the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire. “It’s challenging, because you have to stay abreast of new medications and technologies that save people’s lives,” she says.

Patient Ratios on the Rise?

Even though they deal with the challenges inherent in treating higher-acuity patients, critical-care nurses say a big plus is working with just one or two patients per shift vs. the six that’s typical in medical/surgical units.

“In critical care, I feel like I can do a lot to help an individual patient,” says Cooper, who practiced as a critical-care nurse for 15 years before pursuing a professorship.

However, the nursing shortage may mean critical-care nurses will be caring for more patients in the near future, a potentially troubling development given that increasingly ill patients demand more individual attention.

Critical-care nurses say that helping to save a life balances out the pain of losing one. However, Mazurek estimates that about 50 percent of the critical-care nurse’s job is helping a patient die with dignity and helping his family enter into the grieving process.

To relieve stress, “critical-care nurses do silly things for one another,” she says. “You find the nurses that you work with form very tight relationships. You go through more with strangers and team members than you do with your family and friends.”

This article originally appeared on Monster Career Advice.

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