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Working as a Critical Care Nurse

What would you do if told that your care can heal a person who is in critical condition? If you answer is that you will do all that it takes, then you have what is required to be a critical care nurse. And it's worth mentioning that a practicing Critical Care Nurse gets around $26 per hour, more than enough to justify your time, care, and patience.

Nursing is a profession where the margin of error is zero, all the time, so you cannot jump into this profession right away. Instead, it would help if you get an Associate or Bachelors Degree in Nursing to be a licensed nurse. These programs will equip you with most of the health care knowledge and hands-on experience of dealing with patients. Also, you have to get supervised clinical experience before serving.

As a critical care nurse, you can serve in any hospital for 40 hours a week. Or can be hired to take care of patients in a critical condition at their home. Whatever you choose, stay calm and be kind hearted to help your patient heal faster.

What Does a Critical Care Nurse Do

Registered nurses (RNs) provide and coordinate patient care, educate patients and the public about various health conditions, and provide advice and emotional support to patients and their family members.


Registered nurses typically do the following:

  • Record patients’ medical histories and symptoms
  • Administer patients’ medicines and treatments
  • Set up plans for patients’ care or contribute to existing plans
  • Observe patients and record the observations
  • Consult and collaborate with doctors and other healthcare professionals
  • Operate and monitor medical equipment
  • Help perform diagnostic tests and analyze the results
  • Teach patients and their families how to manage illnesses or injuries
  • Explain what to do at home after treatment

Most registered nurses work as part of a team with physicians and other healthcare specialists. Some registered nurses oversee licensed practical nurses, nursing assistants, and home health aides.

Registered nurses’ duties and titles often depend on where they work and the patients they work with. For example, an oncology nurse may work with cancer patients or a geriatric nurse may work with elderly patients. Some registered nurses combine one or more areas of practice. For example, a pediatric oncology nurse works with children and teens who have cancer.

Many possibilities for working with specific patient groups exist. The following list includes just a few examples:

Addiction nurses care for patients who need help to overcome addictions to alcohol, drugs, and other substances.

Cardiovascular nurses care for patients with heart disease and people who have had heart surgery.

Critical care nurses work in intensive-care units in hospitals, providing care to patients with serious, complex, and acute illnesses and injuries that need very close monitoring and treatment.

Genetics nurses provide screening, counseling, and treatment for patients with genetic disorders, such as cystic fibrosis.

Neonatology nurses take care of newborn babies.

Nephrology nurses care for patients who have kidney-related health issues stemming from diabetes, high blood pressure, substance abuse, or other causes.

Rehabilitation nurses care for patients with temporary or permanent disabilities.

Registered nurses may work to promote public health, by educating people on warning signs and symptoms of disease or managing chronic health conditions. They may also run health screenings, immunization clinics, blood drives, or other community outreach programs. Other nurses staff the health clinics in schools.

Some nurses do not work directly with patients, but they must still have an active registered nurse license. For example, they may work as nurse educators, healthcare consultants, public policy advisors, researchers, hospital administrators, salespeople for pharmaceutical and medical supply companies, or as medical writers and editors.

Clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) are a type of advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). They provide direct patient care in one of many nursing specialties, such as psychiatric-mental health or pediatrics. CNSs also provide indirect care, by working with other nurses and various other staff to improve the quality of care that patients receive. They often serve in leadership roles and may educate and advise other nursing staff. CNSs also may conduct research and may advocate for certain policies.

How To Become a Critical Care Nurse

Registered nurses usually take one of three education paths: a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing (BSN), an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN), or a diploma from an approved nursing program. Registered nurses also must be licensed.


In all nursing education programs, students take courses in anatomy, physiology, microbiology, chemistry, nutrition, psychology, and other social and behavioral sciences, as well as in liberal arts. BSN programs typically take 4 years to complete; ADN and diploma programs usually take 2 to 3 years to complete. All programs include supervised clinical experience.

Bachelor’s degree programs usually include additional education in the physical and social sciences, communication, leadership, and critical thinking. These programs also offer more clinical experience in nonhospital settings. A bachelor’s degree or higher is often necessary for administrative positions, research, consulting, and teaching.

Generally, licensed graduates of any of the three types of education programs (bachelor’s, associate’s, or diploma) qualify for entry-level positions as a staff nurse. However, employers—particularly those in hospitals—may require a bachelor’s degree.

Many registered nurses with an ADN or diploma choose to go back to school to earn a bachelor’s degree through an RN-to-BSN program. There are also master’s degree programs in nursing, combined bachelor’s and master’s programs, and accelerated programs for those who wish to enter the nursing profession and already hold a bachelor’s degree in another field. Some employers offer tuition reimbursement.

Clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) must earn a master’s degree in nursing and typically already have 1 or more years of work experience as an RN or in a related field. CNSs who conduct research typically need a doctoral degree.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

In all states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories, registered nurses must have a nursing license. To become licensed, nurses must graduate from an approved nursing program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).

Other requirements for licensing vary by state. Each state’s board of nursing can give details. For more information on the NCLEX-RN and a list of state boards of nursing, visit the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

Nurses may become certified through professional associations in specific areas, such as ambulatory care, gerontology, and pediatrics, among others. Although certification is usually voluntary, it demonstrates adherence to a higher standard, and some employers require it.

CNSs must satisfy additional state licensing requirements, such as earning specialty certifications. Contact state boards of nursing for specific requirements.

Important Qualities

Critical-thinking skills. Registered nurses must be able to assess changes in the health status of patients, including determining when to take corrective action and when to make referrals.

Communication skills. Registered nurses must be able to communicate effectively with patients in order to understand their concerns and assess their health conditions. Nurses need to explain instructions, such as how to take medication, clearly. They must be able to work in teams with other health professionals and communicate the patients’ needs.

Compassion. Registered nurses should be caring and empathetic when caring for patients.

Detail oriented. Registered nurses must be responsible and detail oriented because they must make sure that patients get the correct treatments and medicines at the right time.

Emotional stability. Registered nurses need emotional resilience and the ability to manage their emotions to cope with human suffering, emergencies, and other stresses.

Organizational skills. Nurses often work with multiple patients with various health needs. Organizational skills are critical to ensure that each patient is given appropriate care.

Physical stamina. Nurses should be comfortable performing physical tasks, such as moving patients. They may be on their feet for most of their shift.


Most registered nurses begin as staff nurses in hospitals or community health settings. With experience, good performance, and continuous education, they can move to other settings or be promoted to positions with more responsibility.

In management, nurses can advance from assistant clinical nurse manager, charge nurse, or head nurse to more senior-level administrative roles, such as assistant director or director of nursing, vice president of nursing, or chief nursing officer. Increasingly, management-level nursing positions are requiring a graduate degree in nursing or health services administration. Administrative positions require leadership, communication skills, negotiation skills, and good judgment.

Some nurses move into the business side of healthcare. Their nursing expertise and experience on a healthcare team equip them to manage ambulatory, acute, home-based, and chronic care businesses. Employers—including hospitals, insurance companies, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and managed care organizations, among others—need registered nurses for jobs in health planning and development, marketing, consulting, policy development, and quality assurance.

Some RNs choose to become nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, or nurse practitioners, which, along with clinical nurse specialists, are types of advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). APRNs may provide primary and specialty care, and in many states they may prescribe medications.

Other nurses work as postsecondary teachers in colleges and universities.

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Average Salary$62,905
Job Growth Rate12%

Critical Care Nurse Career Paths

Top Careers Before Critical Care Nurse

6.6 %

Top Careers After Critical Care Nurse

8.4 %

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Tell us your goals and we'll match you with the rights job to get there.

Average Salary for a Critical Care Nurse

Critical Care Nurses in America make an average salary of $62,905 per year or $30 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $94,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $41,000 per year.
Average Salary

Best Paying Cities

Average Salary
San Francisco, CA
Salary Range77k - 162k$112k$112,344
Boston, MA
Salary Range65k - 132k$93k$93,484
New York, NY
Salary Range63k - 131k$91k$91,222
Springfield, OR
Salary Range63k - 121k$87k$87,439
Chicago, IL
Salary Range58k - 125k$85k$85,427
Stamford, CT
Salary Range59k - 121k$85k$84,787

Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyCompanyStart DateSalary
Critical Care Registered Nurse
Critical Care Registered Nurse
Infinity One Corporation, Inc.
Infinity One Corporation, Inc.
Critical Care Registered Nurse-Float Pool
Critical Care Registered Nurse-Float Pool
St. David's Medical Center
St. David's Medical Center
Clinical Nurse-Critical Care Unit (7 PM-7 AM)
Clinical Nurse-Critical Care Unit (7 PM-7 AM)
University of Texas M.D. Anderson
University of Texas M.D. Anderson
ICU RN/Intensive Care Registered Nurse/Critical Care Nurse-You'Ll Love Ourculture
ICU RN/Intensive Care Registered Nurse/Critical Care Nurse-You'Ll Love Ourculture
Texas Health Resources
Texas Health Resources
Critical Care Float Ed/Icu RN-S Per Week (Night Shift)
Critical Care Float Ed/Icu RN-S Per Week (Night Shift)
Steward Health Care System
Steward Health Care System
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Critical Care Nurse Resumes

Designing and figuring out what to include on your resume can be tough, not to mention time-consuming. That's why we put together a guide that is designed to help you craft the perfect resume for becoming a Critical Care Nurse. If you're needing extra inspiration, take a look through our selection of templates that are specific to your job.

Learn How To Write a Critical Care Nurse Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless Critical Care Nurse resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

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Critical Care Nurse Demographics



75.4 %


19.7 %


4.9 %



69.5 %

Black or African American

12.3 %


8.4 %

Foreign Languages Spoken


57.0 %


9.5 %


4.4 %
See More Demographics

Critical Care Nurse Education


81.0 %



45.1 %


25.5 %


19.2 %

Top Colleges for Critical Care Nurses

1. Duke University

Durham, NC • Private

In-State Tuition

2. University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA • Private

In-State Tuition

3. Yale University

New Haven, CT • Private

In-State Tuition

4. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor, MI • Public

In-State Tuition

5. Georgetown University

Washington, DC • Private

In-State Tuition

6. University of California - Los Angeles

Los Angeles, CA • Public

In-State Tuition

7. University of Virginia

Charlottesville, VA • Public

In-State Tuition

8. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, NC • Public

In-State Tuition

9. Columbia University in the City of New York

New York, NY • Private

In-State Tuition

10. Chamberlain College of Nursing - Arlington

Arlington, VA • Private

In-State Tuition
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Top Skills For a Critical Care Nurse

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 17.6% of critical care nurses listed patient care on their resume, but soft skills such as communication skills and compassion are important as well.

Best States For a Critical Care Nurse

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a critical care nurse. The best states for people in this position are California, Massachusetts, Maine, and North Dakota. Critical care nurses make the most in California with an average salary of $104,363. Whereas in Massachusetts and Maine, they would average $92,744 and $91,391, respectively. While critical care nurses would only make an average of $91,390 in North Dakota, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. Maine

Total Critical Care Nurse Jobs:
Highest 10% Earn:
Location Quotient:
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. New Hampshire

Total Critical Care Nurse Jobs:
Highest 10% Earn:
Location Quotient:
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. North Dakota

Total Critical Care Nurse Jobs:
Highest 10% Earn:
Location Quotient:
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
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Top Critical Care Nurse Employers

1. St. Joseph Hospital
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2. American Medical Response
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3. United States Army
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4. Methodist Hospitals
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5. Medical Staffing Network
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6. Good Samaritan Hospital
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Critical Care Nurse Videos

Updated October 2, 2020