So you want to be an ICU nurse! To many nurses, intensive care is the ultimate patient care setting, and intensive care nursing is their ultimate aspiration.
But ICU nurses have a certain identifiable set of traits, and nurses who share those traits fare better in the ICU.
Do you have the traits necessary to be a successful ICU nurse?
Read below to see if you have what it takes to be an ICU nurse.
ICU nurses come in all shapes and sizes, gender and background, but they all share a few common characteristics.
ICU nurses speak up for their patients. Not seen as placid folks, they know what their patients need and they persist until they get it.
Can you call an MD at 0200 without a minute’s hesitation when you need something for your patient? And call back again at 0245 when you need something else for your patient?
ICU nurses are confident and forthright. They are not known for being intimidated by physicians. Experienced ICU nurses and physicians often work closely together with mutual respect, making a unique and satisfying work relationship.
It’s gratifying to be recognized for your experience, assessment skills, and expertise, and many ICU nurses enjoy that recognition from nurses and doctors alike.
Are you self-directed and independent? Do you enjoy making decisions? If so, ICU might just be your setting.
ICU nurses highly enjoy the freedom of working independently, or within established protocols, such as weaning a patient or titrating medications. They pride themselves on their patient management skills, and rightly so.
They make effective Rapid Response Team members because they like to take charge, assess the situation, and initiate treatment.
The joke about ICU nurses being detail oriented is that the ABC’s of an ICU nurse are “Airway, Bathing, Circulation” because MY PATIENT BETTER LOOK GOOD WHILE WE’RE CODING THEM!
ICU nurses make sure their patients are cleaned, turned, positioned, and suctioned. Every line is (color) labeled at least once and sometimes twice, dressings are pristine, and patients are expertly propped, aligned, and positioned just so.
A typical ICU nurse is simply not going to leave a messy room or an IV bag with 50cc for the next shift. They have standards and are not going to embrace the nurse who is relaxed about following them.
ICU nurses insist on control over their environment. Closely related to being detail oriented, their patient rooms and supplies are in order. Papers in a neat pile. Red pen in right pocket, hemostats in left pocket. They can deal with chaos if said chaos happens within a structured environment.
They excel at turning chaos into order.
Are you logical and an objective problem solver? ICU nurses communicate effectively with others to figure out solutions to complex patient problems.
They don’t buy into what they are told just because it’s someone in authority, or because “we’ve always done it that way”. They demand facts and rationale for clinical practice decisions.
ICU nurses recognize patterns and extract meaning from patient labs, measurements, and trends to identify problems and benefit their patients.
ICU nurses have 100% focus when needed. Everything else fades away except the code they’re running or the unstable patient they’re stabilizing. They have the ability to shift into an intense overdrive.
Their outward demeanor/persona may be easy going and relaxed, but inwardly they are on point, ready to respond, like a runner on the starting block, waiting for the gunshot.
Which fits…it is intensive care, right?
They can troubleshoot high-tech equipment and are comfortable around techy devices. They prefer a challenging patient that pushes them to the limits of their skills and abilities to a stable patient who is ready to transfer out.
If you are still thinking about being an ICU nurse, first read 10 Tips You Need to Succeed in the ICU because equally important to having the traits is fitting in.
Or are you thinking maybe you might be more of an ED nurse? Check to see.
Understanding accelerated MSN nursing programs
Accelerated nursing programs are designed to help students complete their degree programs at a much quicker pace. These programs provide a way for individuals with undergraduate degrees or training in nursing to get a head start on higher-level degrees.
Online nursing programs are a viable alternative for students who are working or are unable to take classes on-site. We’ve featured a variety of these options below to help you fit schooling into your schedule:
Colorado Technical University
Grand Canyon University
Nova Southeastern University
Sacred Heart University