Intensive Care Unit Nurse Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

Intensive Care Unit Nurses, or Critical Care Nurses, are responsible for providing care and support to patients that are staying in a hospital’s ICU and require additional care than most patients. Their duties include monitoring vital signs, providing emergency response care and managing a patient’s life support system maintenance.

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Intensive Care Unit Nurse duties and responsibilities

The responsibilities of an Intensive Care Unit Nurse differ from those of a registered nurse because they are in a setting where the situation of a patient can change rapidly. In addition to providing regular update reports to doctors and running diagnostic tests, Intensive Care Unit Nurses should be able to rapidly respond to medical emergencies that their seriously ill patients may experience. Responsibilities include:

  • Monitor and evaluate patient progress
  • Administer treatments
  • Identify changes in a patient’s condition and react accordingly
  • Maintain patient records
  • Complete paperwork necessary for patient transfer out of the intensive care unit

What does an Intensive Care Unit Nurse do?

Intensive Care Unit Nurses are typically employed at hospitals, emergency rooms and specialized care facilities to take care of medically fragile patients undergoing serious procedures or recovering from severe injuries. Intensive Care Unit Nurses take extra care to ensure that their environment and tools are sterile in order to protect patients with weakened immune systems. Their role is to monitor a patient’s ongoing care and recovery, communicating with doctors and surgeons about the status of their care plan. Intensive Care Unit Nurses also help disabled patients maintain their hygiene by bathing, feeding and dressing them.

Intensive Care Unit Nurse skills and qualifications

A successful Intensive Care Unit Nurse candidate will have a bachelor’s degree in nursing and at least five years of experience in a critical care unit. Communication skills are key in this role because of the sometimes hectic nature of treating medical emergencies. Many other soft skills nurses develop over the years will be essential for an Intensive Care Unit Nurse, including empathy, written communication skills, research and reporting abilities and more. Skills and qualifications of an Intensive Care Unit Nurse include:

  • Bachelor’s degree in nursing
  • Experience in a critical care unit
  • Understanding of health information technology and structures
  • Communication and empathy skills
  • Availability to work 12-hour shifts, both day and night

Intensive Care Unit Nurse salary expectations

The average tenure for an Intensive Care Unit Nurse is one to three years. The average salary for an Intensive Care Unit Nurse is $1,530 per week, or $78,572 annually. This estimate is based on 54,447 salaries anonymously submitted to Indeed by Intensive Care Unit Nurses and collected from past and present job postings on Indeed over the last 36 months.

Intensive Care Unit Nurse education and training requirements

An Intensive Care Unit Nurse should have a bachelor’s degree in nursing or a related field. Many colleges and universities now offer nursing programs where students can earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) at the end of the program. There are also standalone nursing programs that offer students a BSN at the end of their studies.

Intensive Care Unit Nurse experience requirements

To work in the intensive care unit, nurses should have some previous experience working in a critical care unit. The environment can be a hectic, stressful and emotional one, so having previous experience in an intensive care unit or emergency room environment is beneficial. It will be important that past experience has helped build soft skills like communication skills and the ability to empathize with others.

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Frequently asked questions about Intensive Care Unit Nurses

 

What are the qualities of a good Intensive Care Unit Nurse?

Because they work in life or death situations, Intensive Care Unit Nurses should have excellent instincts and intuition. Good Intensive Care Unit Nurses are perceptive and aware of their environment. They notice small changes in their patient’s behavior and deduce possible medical complications that could cause them. Successful Intensive Care Unit Nurses have empathy for others and act with kindness when treating patients, many of whom have been through stressful and traumatic medical problems. They are strong communicators who write and speak clearly when discussing medical information and explaining recovery plans to patients.

 

What are the daily duties of an Intensive Care Unit Nurse?

When admitting a patient to the ICU, Intensive Care Unit Nurses read through their chart and fill out the proper transfer paperwork. They hook patients up to ventilators, monitors, feeding tubes, catheters and other equipment they need to provide constant medical care. Intensive Care Unit Nurses prepare medication schedules and make sure each patient takes the appropriate combination of pills and injections. They update doctors about the patient’s progress and follow precise instructions about patient care. Intensive Care Unit Nurses also speak to the patient’s family members to talk about the timeline of their recovery, physical therapy and support options.

 

What is the difference between an Intensive Care Unit Nurse and an ER Nurse?

Intensive Care Unit Nurses work exclusively in a hospital’s ICU, while ER Nurses can work at any part of an emergency room. Some Intensive Care Unit Nurses work at emergency room ICUs responding to critical emergencies, while others provide ongoing care for non-emergency patients that require intensive care. ER Nurses can work with a large number of new patients every day, while Intensive Care Unit Nurses tend to work long-term with some of the same patients due to their long recovery times and extensive care plans.

 

What are the different types of Intensive Care Unit Nurses?

Intensive Care Unit Nurses can specialize in working with a particular type of patient. NICU Nurses, or Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Nurses, work with premature babies and expectant mothers who require intensive care during their pregnancy. Postoperative Intensive Care Nurses are dedicated to caring for patients recovering from surgical procedues. Some other types of Intensive Care Unit Nurses include Cardiac Care Nurses, Cardiothoracic ICU Nurses, Neuro ICU nurses and Flight Nurses who accompany patients being transported by plane or helicopter to another location.

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