How do I become a Critical Care Nurse?

There are several areas of specialization upon entering the nursing field that might interest you, for example, a Critical Care Nurse (CCN). A CCN, also known as an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Nurse, may begin their career as a Registered Nurse (RN) with an online Bachelor of Science (BSN) degree. Then you may choose to complete further training by obtaining your Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN) certification. For this specialty career, there is a projected job growth of 19% between now and 2022 and the median pay, as of 2016, is $68,450 with a range of between $47,120 – $102,990 annually, depending on experience, education, certifications and job location.

The Critical Care Nurse candidate must be well organized, a good communicator and prepared to work well under high pressure, fast-paced and very stressful conditions. You must also be prepared for long hours on your feet and prepared to move and lift patients, as needed.

A CCN nurse works directly with very critically ill and injured patients most often in the intensive care units of hospitals, emergency rooms, cardiac and trauma centers, nursing homes and outpatient clinics. They are responsible for monitoring and treating life-threatening diseases, heart attack and stroke patients, as well as, those with injuries and severe burns. Daily responsibilities may include using advance life support and monitoring devices, assessing patient conditions and administering medications and treatments, in addition to, supporting and educating family members. CCNs work closely with other medical professionals.

After you have completed the prerequisites, including passage of the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN), you may then complete additional CCRN training and obtain your certification offered through the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN). Qualifications for taking the CCRN exam include a current license as a RN or APRN in the U.S. and a required number of hours experience working in a critically or acutely ill patients. Typically, you will need 1750 hours of direct care experience with critically ill patients in the past two years, with 875 of those hours accruing in the most recent year prior to your application. By passing this test, you have shown that you possess the knowledge level needed to take care of acutely or critically ill patients. Recertification is required every three years as long as your RN or APRN licensure is valid and you have attended continuing education programs.

Clinical experience in this area of expertise is important. If you are interested in a possible career as a Critical Care Nurse, then it will be beneficial for you to try to center your clinical work as a student into the critical care setting, if possible. If your program or employer allows it, while you are in nursing school, then this is the way to go. Your experience can be obtained in the area in which you are interested; this may include intensive care or coronary care units.

Nurses who are interested in furthering their career may wish to earn their online master’s degree. Some programs offer coursework with a specialty in acute care, including trauma nursing, advanced cardiac life support, clinical pathophysiology, as well as, research courses.

Check out our Top Online Nursing Degree Programs if you are interested in a career in nursing.