Critical care nursing is the field of nursing with a focus on the utmost care of the critically ill or unstable patients following extensive injury, surgery or life threatening diseases. Critical care nurses can be found working in a wide variety of environments and specialties, such as general intensive care units, medical intensive care units, surgical intensive care units, trauma intensive care units, coronary care units, cardiothoracic intensive care units, burns unit, paediatrics and some trauma center emergency departments. These specialists generally take care of critically ill patients who require mechanical ventilation by way of endotracheal intubation and/or titratable vasoactive intravenous medications.
Critical care nurses are also known as ICU nurses. They treat patients who are acutely ill and unstable requiring more frequent nursing assessments and the utilization of life sustaining technology and drugs. Although many ICU patients have chronic health issues, patients are in the ICU for an acute pathology or an exacerbation of a chronic pathology. ICU nurses apply their specialized knowledge base to care for and maintain the life support of critically ill patients who are often on the verge of death. On a day-to-day basis a critical care nurse will commonly, “perform assessments of critical conditions, give intensive and intervention, advocate for their patients, and operate/maintain life support systems which include mechanical ventilation via endotracheal, tracheal, or nasotracheal intubation, and titration of continuous vasoactive intravenous medications in order to maintain a mean arterial pressure that ensures adequate organ and tissue perfusion.” Taking care of ICU patients is a very exhausting profession, and critical care nurses face many issues doing so. Critical care nurses tend to feel overwhelmed for various reasons experiencing strong feelings of stress and anxiety due to the workload they receive. Within such an intense work environment, critical care nurses become extremely engulfed in the workload that they sometimes are unable to take the mental breaks that they need. They are even forced to take shorter breaks at times. This interferes with their ability to properly meet the needs of certain patients. Another common issue that critical care nurses deal with is alarm fatigue, which is a lack of energy due to the loud and obnoxious alarms in a critical setting. This causes the nurses to feel irritated and can become very burdensome. Some nurses do not know how to prevent alarm fatigue, while others believe that the only way to deal with it, is to adapt to the alarms because the issue is usually ignored or overlooked. Although critical care nurses face common issues of stress and anxiety, these strong feelings can be prevented if nurses strive to obtain healthy habits and positive interactions to take care of themselves.