Intensive care unit (ICU) registered nurses (RNs) care for patients who are suffering from severe, acute medical conditions or illnesses. ICU nurses are specially trained to assess and treat a patient in a critical care situation. An ICU RN will have a minimum of a bachelor's degree in nursing with special courses focusing on the practice of administering critical care. Most ICU nurses have a master's degree. According to Payscale.com, as of May 2010, an ICU nurse earns between $51,231 and $76,609 annually.
Communication and Documentation
The documentation recorded by an ICU nurse can have a direct affect on a patient's care and is important information for doctors and other nurses to have when providing medical care to a patient. Since many patients in intensive care situations cannot verbalize how they're feeling or what they need, an ICU nurse must carefully document all her observations and interactions with her patients, as this serves as the communication with doctors regarding a patient's condition. Throughout a patient's stay in an ICU, the nurse will let the patient know what is going on and what procedures are going to be done as she continually works to determine the patient's needs. She documents changes in condition and uses the patient chart as one method of communication between herself and other hospital personnel.
Assessment of a patient's condition is an ongoing process in the ICU. An ICU RN utilizes many methods to assess a patient's condition. He monitors vital statistics, checks the readings on any diagnostic machines to which the patient is hooked up and examines the patient's physical appearance. Although an ICU nurse works with other medical staff members to examine and assess the patient, he must be able to make immediate decisions and take action if warranted by a change in a patient's condition. When a patient is first admitted to an ICU, an ICU RN will continually assess the patient's condition as he and others work to stabilize the patient.
Treatment and Care
Following the orders of the doctor in charge, ICU nurses administer many different types of treatment to her patients. In the first few hours or days of a patient's stay, she may provide medicine and other treatments to help stabilize the patient's condition and make him more comfortable. Once the patient stabilizes, the nurse will continue to treat the patient with the goal of improving the patient's condition enough so he may be moved out of the ICU.
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