ICU nurses roles, responsibilities, Salary, job and certification 2023

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Being an ICU nurse Started with a first step in the field of Nursing. In this comprehensive article we properly in detail discussed all you need to know about becoming an icu nurse, from the meaning of icu nurse, where they work, their roles and responsibilities, steps to become icu nurse, their salary and many more. Let’s start by telling you who is an icu nurse and continue to learn more.

What is an ICU Nurse and Intensive Care Unit

ICU nurses works in an Intensive Care Unit, these are well equipped unit in the hospital that are well organized and full of required medical devices for the treatment of a very ill patient, is this kind of special unit an icu nurse work.

ICU Nurse work in a special unit in the hospital or other health facilities called Intensive Care Unit where very critical ill patients are being cared and treated, the patient in ICU might have been deteriorated from other units in the hospital, from their homes, accidents or coming out from surgery.

ICU nurse is a very specialized, highly trained nurse who gives nursing care to a patient in very traumatic health conditions. They have experience, knowledge and skills of treating and caring a very ill patient who need more and appropriate care closely.

The monitoring and caring of patient in ICU are very closely, these patients are sometimes intubated and on ventilator devices, some on lives savings medication monitoring with infusion devices.

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ICU Nurses are very smart, attention to details and have a very quick response and critical thinking and solving skills. They also have well knowledge and experience of giving end of life care and Resuscitation skills.

ICU nurses work with different specialist in a hospital and care very few patients in the hospital for instance 2 or 3 patient per one nurse.

What do ICU nurses do?

ICU nurses work in a very challenging and complex units in hospitals or other health facilities. Their primary duty is to provide lifesaving care to patients battling for their lives( very ill patients). As we have mentioned above icu nurses are highly trained to provide exceptional care for patients who depend on 24/7 nursing care, with additional uses of lifesaving medication and devices.

Roles and Responsibilities of ICU Nurse

  1. Practice Medical Ethics
  2. Vital signs Check
  3. Serving medication and infusion
  4. Diagnostic or Therapeutic Procedures
  5. Assessment, Monitoring, and recording of patients’ progress
  6. Health education
  7. Reassurance and counseling
  8. Using and maintaining of medical devices
  9. Collaboration with other team
  10. Care Plan

Practice Medical ethics

understanding and respecting ethics surrounding patient confidentiality, dignity and risk management.

Vital signs check

Checking of vitals signs every hour and record the finding, this will give insight on patients condition and changes to prevent suffering of patient and to take immediate action when needed.

Serving Medications and Infusion

Intensive Care Unit nurse having autonomy of serving drugs including control drugs and lifesaving drugs based on approved and organized medical protocol, thus icu nurse
administer medications and fluids by routes of intravenous, intramuscular, nasogastric tubes, sublingual, transdermal, subcutaneous, and oral route. Also administer a variety of lifesaving treatments efficiently and effectively.

Infusing blood products and recording changes, monitoring patients for reaction,

Diagnostic or Therapeutic Procedures

ICU nurse are well trained to perform and assist physician in performing Diagnostic or Therapeutic procedures such as intubation, bedside procedures, blood tranfusion, medications, Cleaning and bandaging patient wounds also Performing or arranging for tests such as blood draws via Veins eg femoral tap etc according to the patient’s clinical status

Assessment, Monitoring and Recording of patients’ progress

Using skills of highly developed physical assessment to evaluate and monitor of patient’s progress and identification of any sudden or subtle changes in the patient’s medical condition and take actions, and Closely documents patient care, protocols and unit procedures.

Health Education

ICU nurse Health educate Patients and families on patients health status of the plan, other needs that will contribute to the care of patient.

Reassurance and Counseling

Reassure and counsel patients and caregivers on patients’ condition especially patient on end of life care by Providing emotional support to the patients and their families.

Using and maintaining of Medical devices

ICU nurses familiar with uses of medical devices, maintaining them for further use. They prepare and set up and monitor medical equipment and devices like medical ventilators, oxygen delivery devices, pulse oximeters, monitors etc

Collaboration with other team

Collaborate with health care professions to provide holistic care to patients.Work with the interdisciplinary team to develop a plan of care to stabilize patients, Assisting during ward rounds, and patient reviews.

Care Plan

Prioritizes patient care plan based on patient needs and care resources, and respond appropriately to medical emergencies in the unit, observe and identify patient’s needs according to their age and level of consciousness and creating the appropriate care plan .

Where do ICU nurses work?

We have already talked about what is Intensive care Unit in the beginning of this article and why there is critical care unit in the hospital, icu nurse primarily work in the ICU departments of health care facilities. ICUs are well sanitized and properly organized units, with limit movement and less crowded designed for health and safety of critical patients.

ICU nurses work almost exclusively within their unit that is ICU Unit, they can also work in the other unit in hospital ( flexible) when needed.

List of Places where ICU nurses work

Hospital’s ICU unit

ICU nurse work in general ICU unit of the hospital taking care of patients who need more care than other patients.

Neonatal and pediatric ICU unit

Working in this icu unit to care new born babies and pediatric patients who are critically ill and need emergency care.

Surgical Departments

work with patient that will under go surgery (Outpatient Surgery Center) and coming out from surgery (Post-operative Care Units)

Coronary ICU unit (cardiac catheter lab)

places where patient will cardiac problems are being cared, icu nurse here take care of this kind of patient.

The ICU Standards of Care

All ICU standards of care are guided by the specific hospital’s protocol and procedures. Also by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN). Generally accepted standards of practice are some listed below:

  1. Checking and recording of patient vital signs every hour
  2. Perfoming patients Head-to-toe assessment and documentation every 4 hours
  3. To assist in or perfom Lab draws usually at least daily
  4. Repositioning and skin integrity check every 2 hours
  5. Aseptic Wound care every shift
    Frequent evaluation of continuous telemetry monitoring
  6. Constant critical thinking to determine worst case and take action

Type of ICU Nurse

Neurological ICU Nurse

Neurological ICU nurses cared for patients that have experienced a traumatic brain injury and/or spinal cord injury of some type. The work includes:

Cardiac ICU Nurse (Coronary)

Cardiac ICU nurses are involved with patients who have had or who need cardiac surgery or a cardiac catheterization procedure, they usually work in coronary intensive care unit.

Medical ICU Nurse

Medical ICU closely carin patients with medical diseases and condition such as sepsis, pneumonia, withdrawal from a substance such as alcohol or drugs, stroke, myocardial infarction, active gastrointestinal bleeding, or other complications.

Trauma ICU Nurse

Trauma ICU nurses work with patients who have sustained injuries due to a motor vehicle crash, fall, attempted homicide, attempted suicide, drowning, or similar events. Mostly caring for unconcious patients

Burn ICU Nurse

Burn ICU nurses care for patients with a large surface area of burn injury. primarily management of pain and prevention of infection

Transplant ICU Nurse

Transplant ICU usually taking care of patients who have received or are about to receive an organ transplant such as cornea, heart, liver, or kidney.

Surgery ICU nurse

Patients in a surgical intensive care unit (SICU) are cared for by specially trained ICU nurses who monitor vital signs and provide immediate care

what are the step to become icu nurse

To become an ICU nurse it is very simple if one adhere to the following guidelines whic are:

  1. Become a registered nurse first.
  2. Get clinical experience.
  3. Obtain ICU nurse certificate

The above are the simple way individuals follow to practice as an icu nurse, let us explain them one after the other for more clarification.

Become a qualified registered nurse

Becoming a registered nurse (RN) is the first step of becoming an ICU nurse. Before you become a registered nurse, you have to study a basic nursing science in an accredited nursing School obtain nursing certificate (RN) or university graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) from an accredited nursing program. Individual must pass the NCLEX examination, or NMC examination in some countries.

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Get clinical experience.

Secondly, a qualified registerd nurse will need at least two years of clinical nursing Experiences and familiar with variety of procedures in a position specializing in intensive care nursing to become an ICU nurse. Also developing confidence and critical thinking is of great benefits.

Obtain ICU nurse certificate

There is various challenges and responsibilities that come with operating in an ICU, hospitals, or other health facilities now required various certifications that guarantee they are hiring the best quality nurses. Many nurses who want to advance their careers are now turning to certifications. Additionally, certifications are a great way to increase ICU nurse salaries.

However the most popular certification for ICU nurses is the Certification for Adult Critical Care Nurses (CCRN) and ideally awarded by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses.

To be eligible to sit for the CCRN exam, nurses must meet the following criteria:

To Practice as an RN or APRN for 1,750 hours in direct care of acutely/critically ill pediatric patients during the previous two years experience and with 875 of those hours accrued in the most recent year preceding application.


To Practice as an RN or APRN for at least five years with a minimum of 2,000 hours in direct care of acutely/critically ill pediatric patients and with 144 of those hours accrued in the most recent year preceding application.

ICU Nurse Salary

The average salary is $90,855, according to Incredible Health data from April 2022.

According to ZipRecruiter reports that ICU nurses in the U.S. earn a average annual salary of $119,604 annually or $58 per hour.

ICU nurses are often paid higher than other nurses within a healthcare system because of their specialized training.

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