What Does a Critical Care Nurse Do?

ICU (Intensive Care Unit) nursing care is very different from other branches of a nursing job. An ICU nurse has to provide one-on-one care to patients. In most other cases, there may be one nurse aligned to up to 12 patients in a ward.

Patients may have to be admitted into critical care due to various reasons such as heart attacks, sepsis, car accidents, complicated surgeries, hangings, overdose cases, massive strokes, suicide attempts,and other self-harm cases too. Patients that are in ICU are often ventilated (on a breathing machine), sedated, as well as closely monitored.

The most challenging aspect is when the medical professionals in the ICU have to break the bad news to the patient’s families. Mortality rates are high,and almost 30 to 45% of patients die within the Intensive Care Unit. There is a significant amount of research being conducted in the medical field,and newer and more advanced ways of treating patients are being found.

The nursing and other supporting staff are trained on new treatment methods and care for ICU patient. Although prolonging life via invasive treatments might sound like a very good idea at first glance, medical professionals are often confronted with ethical and moral dilemmas. It can be extremely difficult to deal with a situation where the doctor may recommend that treatment may need to be withdrawn. Dealing with these types of situations can prove to be extremely emotional and stressful.

In a High Dependency Unit (HDU),one nurse would be assigned to care for two patients that are still quite unwell but not as dependant as ICU patients. These patients are either admitted for some or the other form of respiratory support (delivering oxygen using Optiflow or via non-invasive ventilation).

A Demanding Yet Fulfilling Job

Sometimes the patients are in HDU following high-risk orthopaedic surgeries (hip/knee revisions scoliosis correction), balloon stents, vascular cases (abdominal aortic aneurysm repairs, pulmonary embolisms, and thrombosis), abdominal surgeries, head and neck injuries,and others. Sometimes, deteriorating patients from other wards could also be moved into the critical care section and admitted to either ICU/HDU for further monitoring and support.

But as a critical care nurse, you will get to learn a lot,and you will also find that working in a demanding setting such as this will improve your clinical skills tremendously. The job will keep you on your toes,but can be extremely fulfilling as well.