According to The Strong Interest Inventory® Assessment, the Critical Care Nurse career is part of The Investigative Theme Code Category. The Strong Interest Inventory® categorizes careers based on personal interests and compares those interests with people who currently function in a well-matched career. The assessment analyzes individual interests in a broad range of occupations in order to help them find a career that is right for them. Investigative Careers emphasize critical thinking, research, or quantitative methods. Individuals in this category are generally skilled in sciences or mathematics. They usually prefer flexible work environments that enable them to focus on their work rather than the details of employment. These careers usually have a fair degree of independent responsibility.
Critical Care Nurses are responsible for providing advanced nursing care to patients who are in critical units, such as burn centers and intensive care units. Critical Care Nurses carefully monitor patients’ vital signs and evaluate them to determine if patients require emergency intervention. This includes setting up the medical equipment, and monitoring patients’ levels of pain and adjusting their sedation as needed. They document all patient characteristics, including their fluid and nutritional intake. They ensure that patients treatment plans are as up-to-date as possible. They administer medications intravenously, orally, by injection, or in other ways, and administer blood and blood products (e.g., plasma). Critical Care Nurses even assist physicians with complex procedures, such as endoscopy, bronchoscopy, and endotracheal intubation, among others.
Critical Care Nurses collaborate with other professionals to develop and implement treatment plans. In some cases, they may need to serve as advocates for patients and their families, or provide emotional support. As they monitor patients frequently, Critical Care Nurses often become aware of patients’ psychosocial needs (e.g., grief, anger, anxiety, etc.) before others do. In addition to their routine tasks, Critical Care Nurses need to participate in professional organizations and continuing education to keep their skills current. They may also develop, review, or evaluate new nursing protocols, and train incoming nurses or other staff members.
Critical Care Nurses use many different kinds of tools to provide necessary services to their patients. These include materials for patient comfort (e.g., bed pans, medical gurneys foot cradles, food trays), basic medical equipment (e.g., stethoscopes, crutches, blood pressure cuffs, thermometers, syringes, automated external defibrillators), and more complex medical machines (e.g., pace makers, cardiac monitors, epidural anesthesia kits, urinalysis test strips, catheters, etc.). They also use safety equipment (e.g., gloves, goggles, walkers, wheelchairs) to ensure their own and others’ safety. In addition, they also rely on information search software (e.g., American Association of Critical Care Nurses AACN Medicopedia), and other forms of medical software (e.g., Bizmatics PrognoCIS EMR System; eClinical Works Software, etc.)
Critical Care Nurses have a high degree of specialized knowledge in medicine, psychology, and biology, as well as fluency in English and are adept at customer service. They need to understand large amounts of written or spoken information fluently, and to be able to carefully monitor many different people while still critically considering the needs and situation of each of them. Critical Care Nurses acquire this expertise either with an associate’s degree (45%) or a bachelor’s degree (45%), though 5% also have completed some college without having earned a degree.
A Critical Care Nurse’s salary can be as high as $100,000, and rarely dips below $43,000, even in states like the Dakotas and Iowa. In the most-populous states of Texas, California, New York, and Florida, Critical Care Nurse’s salary can be well over $100,000 annually, especially for more experienced nurses. Those with less experience or who reside in less populous areas, such as the deep south, might have salaries closer to $60,000. However, employment of Critical Care Nurses is expected to rise substantially nationwide before 2024, with the national average rate projected to increase 16% in the next several years.
Below are some employment trends for critical care nurses:
- Median Critical Care Nurse Salary: $32.04/hour; $66,640 annually
- Employment: 2,751,000 employees
- Projected growth (2014-2022): Much faster than average (14% or higher)
- Projected job openings (2014-2022): 1,088,400
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- Bureau of Labor Statistics wage data and 2014-2022 employment projections Onetonline.org