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What is a Critical Care or Intensive Care Nurse?

What is a Critical Care or Intensive Care Nurse?
Photo: Critical care nurse
Critical care or ICU nursing is a specialisation of nursing which deals specifically with patients experiencing high-dependency, life –threatening conditions.

There are a range of ICU specialties where critical care nurses may work including surgical, trauma, coronary, medical, paediatric, burns, cardiothoracic and high risk nurseries.

Nurses in the ICU often work in conjunction with a multidisciplinary team of doctors, consultants, physiotherapists and various other specialists to ensure optimal patient care.

Critical care nursing can be mentally and physically demanding with long hours (including night shifts), extensive patient handling and high-pressure conditions. Critical care nurses must be able to make sophisticated judgements quickly as patients in ICU are often unstable and can experience rapid physiological decline.
The duties of a critical care nurse may include assisting physicians during procedures, checking patients’ vital signs, taking blood samples, managing ventilation and life support equipment and ordering diagnostic tests.  A critical care nurse can also administer medication and provide patients with personal care, such as bathing and dressing. 

Critical care nurse may need to undertake family liaison duties, such as providing support and education to both the patient and the patient’s family. 

When a patient is discharged from the ICU and transferred to another unit in the hospital, the critical nurse will liaise with the new team to ensure a safe transition. 

How to become a Critical Care Nurse

To practice as a critical care nurse in Australia you must already be a qualified Registered Nurse.

It is often expected that critical care nurses will also hold an advanced degree such as a Graduate Certificate, Graduate Diploma or Masters of Nursing with a specialisation in critical care or intensive care. 

Critical Care Nurse Salary

Critical Care and ICU nurses can earn between $53,000 and $92,000 depending on their level of experience and the state in which they practice.

Click here for more information about nursing salaries in Australia.


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