If you’re contemplating a career in nursing, you may be interested in learning how to become an ICU nurse. ICU stands for intensive care unit. Sometimes you will hear the ICU referred to as the CCU, or critical care unit, and the area of nursing in which ICU professionals work is called critical care nursing. Learning to be an ICU nurse will mean learning to work with patients who are critically ill or facing challenges that could be potentially life-threatening.
Education Required for Critical Care Nursing
To work in the ICU (or CCU) you need be a registered nurse (RN). In order to obtain your RN, you will need to first get a diploma or degree, either an associates or bachelors degree, and then pass the national exam for registered nurses, which is called the NCLEX. You will probably have a chance to take some coursework connected to critical care during your nursing degree. Once you have your RN you can ask for work assignments that will allow you to gain skills and experience in that branch of nursing.
Many critical care nurses work toward their certification in the field. While it’s not required, it can show that they are taking their professional role seriously and make their skills even more valuable to their patients and employers. Gaining certification also provides critical care nurses with many learning opportunities as they engage in necessary continuing education. In order to first obtain certification, nurses must have at least two years of experience in working with critical care patients before they can take the certification exam offered by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN). The AACN offers a variety of specialty and sub-specialty certifications which will prepare you to work with acutely ill patients of various ages, from infants and children to adults.
Advance Practice Options
Some nurses decide to go on for an advanced practice degree, meaning they pursue master or doctorate level education. There are several kinds of APRNs, including nurse practitioners and clinical nurse specialists. The AACN offers certification options for advance practice nurses, which include the Acute Care Nurse Practitioner certification and certifications for acute care as a clinical nurse specialist working in adult, pediatric or neonatal services. So if you decide to become an ICU nurse, advanced educational options could keep you working effectively in the field for a long time to come.
Related Resource: How To Become a Telemetry Nurse
Critical care nurses work in adult, pediatric and neonatal ICUs or CCUs and in emergency rooms. Cardiac units, telemetry units and hospital recovery areas are some other places where such nurses may work. It’s an important and demanding job and very much needed, especially as there is currently a shortage of nurses in critical care work. Because of this shortage, some hospitals are beginning special internship programs to encourage more nurses to go into critical care. If you want to become an ICU nurse, you should be able to find plenty of encouragement and mentoring as well as good educational options that will help you to meet your goal.