Working in the ICU

Every year, intensive care units (ICUs) in the United States admit over 5.7 million patients.

No wonder then that there was a 15% growth in the number of ICU beds from 2000 to 2009! From the reported 67,579 beds back in 2000, it has grown to 77,809 beds in less than a decade.

This shows how vital ICUs are to health care. In fact, of the $3.5 trillion health care spending in 2017, a large portion went to ICU costs.

These figures alone already tell you how hectic the schedule of nurses working in the ICU is. Despite that, many of the more than 3.38 million registered nursesin the country still work in ICUs.

That’s because there are plenty of reasons to love about being an intensive care nurse. We’re here to share with you five (plus a bonus!) of them, so make sure you keep reading!

1. A Highly Specialized Field

Intensive Care or Critical Care units are highly specialized hospital departments. For starters, they focus on certain patients and specific health and medical conditions.

Granted, ICUs and CCUs have generic unit names that are interchangeable. But they still often have separate units handling a specific patient population.

There’s the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), for instance. Here, newborns needing specialized care receive treatment standard hospital settings can’t give them.

Another example is the Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU). As the name suggests, this is the specific ICU for patients who had complicated surgery.

ICU nursing staff members also have more specialized medical knowledge. This greater knowledge allows them to carry out advanced life-saving techniques.

They also have a more comprehensive understanding of complex equipment. They’re adept at using ventilators, cardiac monitors, and intracranial pressure monitoring devices.

The bottom line is, ICU practice areas and specialties come in many different forms. That means you have plenty of options you can choose from to further your RN career.

2. One to Two Patients-to-Nurse Ratio

ICUs aim to provide greater intensity, high acuity medical care. After all, patients in these hospital departments suffer from unstable health. That then makes their health even more unpredictable than most other patients.

It’s for this reason that critical care nurses monitor their patients 24/7. Their patients need a high level of constant care, so there should always be a nurse to watch over patients. As such, ICU nurses often only work with one to two patients at any given time.

This doesn’t mean you’ll have more free time than floor nurses. Again, ICU patients have more complex medical and health care needs. However, this concentrated care allows you to deliver only the best care to your patients.

3. Opportunity to Witness the Amazing Recovery of Patients

Given their life-threatening condition, CCU and ICU patients traditionally had high mortality rates. But serious advancements in medicine and technology have pushed these rates down.

We also have the hard-working ICU staff to thank for these lower ICU mortality rates. Through their expertise and focus on patient care, they help improve patient survival.

It’s nothing short of amazing to see a patient survive and recover from a serious health ordeal. But it’s even more rewarding if you had a contribution to the survival and recovery of patients. That’s one of the most rewarding experiences you can have as an ICU nurse.

4. Empower Patients and Their Families

There’s a certain feeling of fulfillment when you know you’re giving excellent care. But that isn’t the only gratifying experience you’ll have when you become an ICU nurse.

It also gives you the chance to form deeper connections with patients and their families. This is especially true in the case of the latter.

Keep in mind that most critical care patients spend their time unconscious. As such, it’s their loved ones that ICU nursing staff communicate with the most.

The ability to comfort the family and friends of patients is an enriching experience. Their loved one may be in critical condition, but the simple act of showing you care can be enough to empower them.

5. A Challenging Career

The health of ICU patients is always fluctuating. That’s why it’s far more common for them to experience “code” situations.

Because of their patient’s circumstances, critical care nurses face challenges on daily basis. That makes it a must for ICU nurses to have the ability to keep their cool at all times. Especially during these “code” or emergency situations.

This is one of the reasons that becoming an ICU nurse can help improve your critical thinking skills. You’ll learn how to always be on your toes and make quick but sound decisions.

Also, since you’re constantly monitoring your patients, your mental acuity will also improve. You’ll be able to hone your focus and concentration even more.

If constant change is something you live for, then a career in an ICU or CCU may be right for you.

A Much-Welcome Bonus: The Financial Rewards

With all that’s required of ICU nurses, it goes without saying they earn quite a lot. On average, these specialist nurses make $75,832 every year. Some, based on experience and location, earn an ICU nurse salary of $93,000 or higher.

What’s more, the BLS projects a 15% growth in all RN employment sectors come 2026. That’s more than twice the average growth rate for all occupations! Simply put, that means you have more job opportunities in the ICU nursing department.

Make a Difference by Working in the ICU

If the reasons above are things you live for, then working in the ICU may be a great career choice for you. Besides, there will always be a constant demand for specialty nurses. This is especially true those who have the skills and aptitude to provide critical care.

One more thing: The country is experiencing a shortage of nurses. That’s another good reason you should consider furthering your RN career.

If you believe you have what it takes to become an ICU nurse, take the next step now and pursue a specialization.

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