Whenever the term critical care is mentioned - most people immediately think about severely sick patients in intensive care units or ICUs. They are not mistaken. Intensive Care Units and Critical Care specialized areas in the hospital that care for patients in need of intense and one on one attention. These are the areas where a critical care nurse Practices.
What is a Critical Care Nurse
A Critical Care Nurse or a CCN is a highly specialized nurse that has been trained to work in Intensive Care areas. They are nurses that care for patients who are severely ill and in need of individualized care. A CCN cares for patients of all diagnoses and gender. Patients may vary depending on this category. Critical care nurses also deal with complex technology that helps sustain patients.
This type of nursing is a relatively new nursing specialty. It wasn't until the 1950's that the very first Intensive Care Units appeared in the Western world. These units were created to deal with gravely ill patients. They were considered to need a more intensive form of care compared to the patients in the regular wards. The notion of an intensive care unit quickly spread. Today, most hospitals are required to have these specialized areas and in turn specialized nurses and physicians to run them.
Back then, nurses assigned in CCUs and ICUs were not seen as different from regular ward RNs. It was only a few years later that CCN was considered as a specialized nursing field.
Roles of a CCN
Like any other registered nurse, the roles of the critical care nurse are very complex. These nurses have to deal with severely ill patients. They also need to be familiar with complex technologies that are continually present in a critical care setting. The critical care nurse also has to know basic and advance life support. Such skills may be called upon at any point during his/her service.
The critical care nurse must also be skilled in the art of diagnosis. He/she must be able to diagnose and identify a patient's immediate needs. This part of nursing is important as it may be the difference between life and death for a patient. Nonetheless, the nurse must remember that despite being skilled at diagnosis, one must not overstep her boundaries and perform roles reserved for a physician alone.
Aside from dealing with patients and their needs, the CCN also has to deal with the patient's family. The CCN often works as a counselor that helps the family get through the crisis at hand. He/she may have to deal with questions and concerns from the patient's immediate family and significant others.
Qualifications and Requirements
IN THE PHILIPPINES - Locally, any registered nurse can become a critical care nurse. It is only a matter of area assignment. Most of the time, nurses who are assigned in critical care units are those who have shown promise in their previous areas of exposure. They are also the ones who have worked in similar areas such as medical/surgical or pediatric units.
ABROAD - Abroad, in the US specifically, there are no specialized requirement to be a critical care nurse other than an RN License. However, there are bodies of authority that certify CCNs.
Although, certification is not required, most CCNs abroad are choosing to go for it because it increases their credibility. Employers also often require their CCNs to be certified in the field. Certification is achieved post graduation. It is not something taught in school. Some schools may expose their students to ICUs, but this is not considered enough for certification. The RNs get their CCN certificates while they are on the job. It is also often sponsored by the employer.
Work Opportunities in the Philippine Nursing Scene
There are a lot of opportunities to become a critical care nurse in the Philippines. But, nurses have to understand that these critical care units are often hard to get into. These units only require a limited number of nurses. Most of the time there are only a total of 12 nurses that work in a typical ICU with 8-10 beds.
Those who do get into these areas are considered lucky because their position opens great opportunities to work abroad. In most settings, CCNs have a lesser work load compared to nurses in large wards. Patients in ICUs need more attention but the numbers are much smaller compared to wards. A typical government hospital ward may hold 50-70 patients and with only a nurse or two to manage it.
There are a lot of work opportunities for a critical care nurse abroad. The CCN can work in any area where there is an intensive care unit. Certification is often an option provided by employers to deserving and promising nurses. The employers are often the ones who fund certification seminars and the likes.
With the present shortage in nursing manpower, hospitals are clamoring to get their hands on specialized nurses. These employers would often offer big sign-in bonuses just to get a nurse to work with them. The average salary of a critical care nurse in the US often ranges from USD50,000 - USD 75,000. It is estimated that nearly 70% of the critical care nurse population earn that much. Some earn slightly lower while others earn upwards of USD90,000 to USD100,000 annually.