Critical Care Nursing

by Heather Hutchins

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, critical care nurses, (also known as intensive care or ICU nurses), provide care to patients with serious, complex, and acute illnesses or injuries that require very close monitoring and extensive medication protocols and therapies. Critical care nurses often work in critical or intensive care hospital units.

Critical care nurses work in a wide variety of clinical settings including cardiac care units, emergency departments, recovery rooms, outpatient surgical centers, flight units, cardiac catheter labs and telemetry units. However, more than half of all critical care nurses work in hospitals.


Most critical care nursing positions require that applicants be registered nurses.

The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) offers the certified critical care nurse (CCRN) certification along with variety of certificates in critical care sub-specialties. Additional degrees in critical care nursing include the clinical nurse specialist (CNS) and the Acute-Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP) designations.

Related Nursing Specialties

Critical care nursing includes the practices of neonatal, adult and pediatric nursing sub-specialties. In addition, some nurses further specialize in critical care for specific organs including the heart, kidneys and liver.

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