What Is a Critical Care RN?
A critical care RN is an umbrella term which means the nurse is trained to take care of clinically unstable patients. Critical care RNs can work in several different environments:
- Intensive care units (adult, pediatric, neonatal, neurological, burn, etc.)
- Emergency rooms
- Operating/recovery rooms
- Trauma units
- Surgery centers
- Flight nursing
One of the main differences that sets critical care nurses apart from other specialties is that they are only responsible for one to two patients at a time, depending on how critically ill they are. The reason for this is that these patients requires more monitoring. Critical care RNs need to be on alert for any clinical change their patients may experience.
Additionally, critical care nurses are trained in advanced emergency response depending on the care area or specialty they work in. For example, a neonatal ICU nurse is trained in Neonatal Advanced Life Support (NALS), which allows him or her to select the right medications and interventions appropriate for the patient to resuscitate them. A trauma nurse is trained to stabilize a variety of trauma patients to include gunshot wounds, crush injuries, and MVAs - all of which require slightly different interventions.
Along with highly specialized interventions, critical care nurses are well trained with advanced monitoring and medical equipment. For example, they can manage multiple IV drips, ventilators, ICP monitors, intra-arterial pressure monitors, etc. While it may look complicated in a patient's room, a critical care RN knows exactly what to do and exactly how to manage the equipment.
Specialty certification is usually required for critical care RNs. The American Association of Critical Care Nurses offers certification for nurses in a variety of settings. This certification helps prepare them to handle the most unstable patient care situation.
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