How to Become a Critical Care Nurse
A critical care nurse is responsible for taking care of patients with emergency medical conditions. As a critical care nurse, you will have to work with patients suffering from life-threatening problems, providing them with the help and support they need to get back on their feet. Most people are surprised to learn how easy it is to get involved with this career, especially since most nurses in this profession make $60,000 a year or more. If you have a thirst for medical knowledge and a hunger for helping other people, you may want to learn how to become a critical care nurse. This could provide you with all the excitement you need to get through the day.
Step 0 – Determine If This Is the Right Career for You
Before you can learn how to become a critical care nurse, you need to figure out if this is the right career for you. Qualities of a good critical care nurse include:
- The ability to think quickly in emergency situations
- The skills to multi-task effectively
- A general knowledge of critical care conditions
- A positive attitude suited for teamwork
- The ability to motivate patients to get better
As a critical care nurse, you will have to speak on behalf of patients that cannot speak for themselves, and you will have to educate patients about their treatment options. In many cases, critical care nurses are the only support systems that patients have, which means that you will have to be able to comfort people in their time of need. If you are naturally nurturing and you enjoy learning new information all the time, this could be a fantastic career for you.
Step 1 – Get an Education
The first official step in learning how to become a critical care nurse is obtaining an education. Critical care nurses have to go through all of the education requirements for registered nurses, but they also have to obtain training in critical care. You may pass through the following degree programs before becoming a critical care nurse:
- Diploma in Nursing (DN)
- Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN)
- Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
- Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
The total education process will probably take six years to complete, assuming you attend school as a full time student. If you choose to go to school part time, that process may take even longer. During your education, you will take courses in anatomy, chemistry, pharmacology, psychology, and general patient care. That will give you the skills to need to work as a critical care nurse. You don’t have to get an MSN to work in this field, but it is strongly advised that you do so. That will give you the best chance at securing a job in the future.
Step 2 – Pass a Licensure Exam
With your education behind you, you should be able to pass a licensure exam. That will provide you with the certification you need to actually work in the field. Some employers may allow you to work as an RN for a few months until you obtain your certification, but that is usually not the case. The specific certification exams you will have to take will be based on your state of employment, so check with your local nursing board for more information.
Step 3 – Gain Work Experience
You will need to work for a few years as an RN before becoming a critical care nurse. That will give you the real world experience you need to respond to critical care situations effectively. If you are planning to go through your master’s degree program, you could start work during your education to get into the career faster. That way you will be able to immediately work as a critical care nurse after graduating with your MSN. To avoid scheduling complications, you can always rely on an online education to give you the flexibility you need for school and work at the same time.
Step 4 – Find a Job
Critical care nurses are in high demand at the moment, so you should have no trouble finding work after you get your nursing license. In just a few years’ time, you could pass through all of the training you need to become a critical care nurse. Take a look at this career closely and see if it is the right option for you.