Are you thinking about becoming a nurse? Are you already a nurse thinking of specializing in critical care?
If you answered yes to either question, rest assured that the door of opportunity is wide open to you. In fact, experts estimate there will be 1.2 million vacancies in the nursing field by the year 2021.
This is especially true inside the country’s many medical intensive care units (MICU). Working with severely ill patients is not for the faint of heart — it takes determination, critical thinking abilities, and the right eduction.
Wondering if you’ve got what it takes? Read on! In this post, we’ll provide a career spotlight on becoming a MICU nurse.
Defining a MICU Nurse
First of all, what’s the difference between a registered nurse and an ICU (or MICU) nurse?
The setting is one major difference. A medical intensive care unit may handle all the care for critcally ill or injured patients in the hospital. Depending on the facility, the ICU might also focus on a narrow range of medical problems.
Another possibility for MICU nurses is working in a mobile ICU. This is either a specialized ambulance or helicopter that transports patients with life-threatening conditions. MICU nurses provide needed care while the patient is transported between different medical facilities.
Because patients in ICU wards need constant, round-the-clock care, MICU nurses may only handle one or two patients per shift.
Their main responsibility is to assess and monitor the patient’s condition. Extreme attention must be given to the quality of care, as an ICU patient’s condition may change rapidly at any time.
Some typical duties a MICU nurse will handle during a shift include:
- Checking vital signs
- Repositioning patients and assessing pain levels
- Print and analyze EKG strips
- Perform head-to-toe assessments
- Critical wound or post-surgical care
- Check all equipment and drug charts
- Administering medication, IVs, etc.
- Provide support and education for patients’ family members
Working in an ICU unit is very rewarding, but it can also be physically and emotionally exhausting.
To get a better feel for what it’s like, ask to shadow a MICU nurse for a shift. That way you’ll gain a clearer understanding of the duties involved.
Required Skills and Education
Like anyone entering the nursing field, your first step is to get your BSN degree (Bachelor of Science in Nursing).
This four-year degree program prepares you to take the NCLEX exam. Once you pass the exam, you’ll become a registered nurse (RN).
From here, you have many options for extra certifications or specializations. Nurses interested in specializing in critical care may choose to pursue:
- CCRN (Acute/Critical Care Nursing)
- CCRN-E (Tele-ICU Acute/Critical Care Nursing)
- CCRN-K (Acute/Critical Care Knowledge Professional)
- PCCN (Progressive Care Nursing)
You can find out more about each of these certifications here.
Top Employers to Work For
As an RN or MICU nurse, the world is your oyster when it comes to employment options.
Of course, just because you can work anywhere doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll want to work anywhere. Like any other industry, some employers treat their staff better than others.
Fortune Magazine just put out a list of the top 30 workplaces in healthcare. Among the “best of the best” are Texas Health Resources, Miami Children’s Health System, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and Scripps Health.
What if you don’t live near any of the hospitals on the list? That’s okay too. You can always check online reviews to see what other nurses say about the facility they work for.
Tips for Becoming an Ideal Candidate
Because ICU patients are much sicker and require more care than the average patient, a MICU nurse must be prepared to deal with the extra work (and the stress that goes along with it).
What skills should you have to be a successful and employable MICU nurse? Because of the ever-changing environment, you’ll need excellent problem solving and critical thinking skills. You need to be able to make quick, educated decisions while keeping your cool.
You’ll also want to develop great communication skills, as you’re the main communicator between doctors, patients, and family members. Cultivate empathy and a high respect for yourself, the doctors you work with, and the patients you treat.
Of course, you’ll also need a great deal of physical and emotional fortitude. How well do you handle a traumatic situation? Do you have the ability to accept human suffering and death without letting it get personal?
These are all important factors if you’re thinking of moving into a MICU environment.
Promotions and Upward Mobility
Due to the shortage mentioned at the opening, nurses have almost unlimited access to promotions within the healthcare field.
Working as an RN and then a MICU nurse will give valuable exposure to a wide range of medical settings. With the knowledge and skills you’ll gain, you may wish to pursue a Master of Science in Nursing degree (MSN).
If you’re interested in moving into research, systems leadership, or quality improvement, you might also consider a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree (DNP).
These are just a few of many options available for upward mobility in the nursing field.
Online Nursing Degree Programs
The great news in today’s modern world is that getting a good education no longer requires sitting in a classroom.
Whether you’re just starting down the path towards a nursing career or you’re ready for a new challenge in the field, an online program can give you the credentials you need.
Click here to learn more about the best online nursing degree programs.
Becoming a MICU Nurse: Final Thoughts
It takes a special kind of person — and a special kind of nurse — to handle the challenging MICU environment.
If you think you’ve got what it takes, you’ve come to the right place. Before you pick an area to specialize in, it’s good to review the difference between certificates and certifications.
And if you have more questions about the world of ICU nursing, be sure to check out our FAQ page.