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OTHER ITA SITES:
An Introduction To Critical Care Nursing
Critical care nursing (CCN) is a growing field. Unfortunately, the number of available nurses is not growing fast enough to meet the demand. The shortage of critical care nurses can be seen in the increased incentive packages and bonuses being offered for jobs in this field.
So, what is critical care nursing? First it is important to understand what a critically ill patient is. This is a patient with a current, or potential, life threatening health condition. These patients need 24 hour care from nurses trained in handling these life-threatening conditions. The patients need proper assessment and management to minimize the damage and improve their chances of survival. This is where critical care nurses come in.
Nursing has been around, in one form or another, since at least the 14th century. Critical care nursing is a much newer subset within the field. It wasn’t until the 1950s that intensive care units came into the picture. Before that, most critically ill patients did not survive. With the advent of the ICU, critical care nursing became necessary. Somebody had to staff these units. At that time training was done on the job in a "trial by fire" method. Nurses were thrown into the care of these patients without additional education or training.
As medicine continues to advance, more and more patients are surviving, what used to be, fatal traumatic injuries and medical conditions. Many other patients are also cared for at home or in alternative settings for longer periods. This all leads to more critically ill patients in the hospitals. This also increases the need for critical care nurses.
Critical care nurses work directly with their patients. They are responsible for the assessment and management of the critically ill patient. They work closely with doctors to ensure the best care is given to the patient and that care is continued on a consistent basis. They also advocate for the patient and their family. They help educate the patient and family about the condition and their available options. The CCN will also serve as a liaison for the patient, and their family, when dealing with other healthcare professionals. It is the job of the critical care nurse to ensure that the proper care is given initially, and that care continues until the patient no longer requires care.
Critical care nurses are working in ICUs, CCUs, pediatric and neonatal ICUs, emergency rooms, cardiac catheter labs, recovery rooms, telemetry units, and, more increasingly, in homes and alternative care settings. As more critically ill patients are cared for in the home and alternative settings, due to the advances in equipment and technology, the need for critical care nurses increases in these settings, as well. Critical care nurses are also among the most sought after traveling nurses. Hospitals and clinics must address the shortages in this area, and the law of supply and demand comes into play. Hospitals are paying large sign-on bonuses or relocation expenses for nurses to work in their facility. Traveling nurses are making good hourly rates or salaries because of the shortage.
Registered nurses are required to be licensed through a state licensing board. This usually requires a degree in nursing from an accredited college and passing a national licensing exam. Although certification standards vary by state, it is a good idea to have a certification in critical care nursing as well. This shows potential employers that you are committed to the idea and that you have demonstrated the knowledge and skills necessary to care for critically ill patients. Continuing education requirements are a part of any licensing, and are required for critical care nursing as well. Moving to advanced practice nursing levels will also increase opportunities and pay scales.
The future for critical care nursing is very bright. As new technologies and medical breakthroughs continue the need for critical care nurses will continue to grow. Patients will receive more care in their homes for longer periods and the hospitals will be areas where only the critically ill patients come. Medical advances have also helped to prolong the lives of many people with terminal illnesses. These individuals eventually end up in ICUs and transition units. More critically ill patients can be cared for in alternative settings, thanks to advances in technology. These units need to be staffed by people with the skills to care for these patients.
Critical care nurses with the skills to handle complex, life-threatening conditions are in demand today. They are sought for many units in hospitals, as well as alternative and home health care positions. The earning potential is almost unlimited in these fields and positions are available in most locations. Critical care nursing is a demanding, yet rewarding, job that you can enjoy while earning top pay.
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