Being an ICU nurse doesn’t happen by accident. Now that you are here it is important to have a clear plan for avoiding pitfalls and to ensure your continued development. Let’s explore several strategies top ICU nurses implore to keep themselves thriving in their careers.

Embrace Change

It’s no secret that nothing stays the same. The ICU is certainly not immune to this concept. There will be changes in leadership, changes in technology, and changes in procedures. Some of these you will see coming, however many you will not. The best approach is to expect change, and be willing to be on the forefront of implementing it if possible. If you maintain an attitude of being open to change and acclimation, you’ll go far in creating the most positive work environment possible for yourself. The ICU is not a place to be stuck in the past.

Be an Active Learner

If you are an ICU nurse, chances are you already have a high degree of initiative when it comes to education. It is important this does not subside now that you have gotten to this point. This means if you don’t yet have your BSN then pursue it, if you have your BSN consider your next steps towards pursuing an MSN or perhaps a Masters of public health. Have thought about becoming a certified critical care nurse (CCN) through? There are also any number of certifications that will help you specialize in areas to you and your patients. This type of continued initiative towards education will help you to be on the cutting edge of critical care nursing, and put you in the conversation for advancement.

Be Curious, Not Furious

It is important to be curious not furious in the face criticism in the ICU. The ICU is an environment where the smallest details can make all the difference. Therefore it is important you glean any bit of wisdom you can from each source presented. This means it may be from another nurse or an intern or doctor who may not present their feedback in the most positive fashion. At the end of the day if intention is to save lives and to improve care, feedback from all sources with a direct perspective is incredibly valuable.

Set Proper Expectations

It is important you set the proper expectations with those you work with. This can help avoid unnecessary turbulence in tense situations later. If you see yourself as a patient advocate first and foremost, then make it clear from the beginning to everyone. This means the doctors you work with you are going to be calling in the middle of the night at times should know you will unapologetically pick up that phone instead of waiting and hoping that what you’re seeing is not correct. It also means the interns and other nurses you work with should know you will not back down from questioning them if you do not feel that something is right about the care or the test results that your patient is receiving.

Respect the Results

Things do not always turn out the way we would like. This is an obvious fact of life, however in a critical care situation this often means you will lose a patient even though you have giving them the best possible care they could have received. It is important to respect the result of your best efforts. Otherwise the emotional investment and ongoing internal turmoil will take its toll on not only you, but your future performance which can put other patients at risk.


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