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Become An Intensive Care Unit Nurse

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Working As An Intensive Care Unit Nurse

  • Assisting and Caring for Others
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Monitor Processes, Materials, or Surroundings
  • Getting Information
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Deal with People

  • Unpleasant/Angry People

  • Unpleasant/Hazardous Environment

  • Stressful

  • $78,000

    Average Salary

What Does An Intensive Care Unit 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.

Duties

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.

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How To Become An Intensive Care Unit 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.

Education

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.

Advancement

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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Intensive Care Unit Nurse Career Paths

Intensive Care Unit Nurse
Registered Nurse Registered Nurse Supervisor
Nurse Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Registered Nurse Staff Nurse Registered Nurse Supervisor
Assistant Director Of Nursing
7 Yearsyrs
Registered Nurse Registered Nurse Supervisor Case Manager
Director Of Case Management
11 Yearsyrs
Staff Nurse Clinical Research Coordinator
Senior Clinical Research Coordinator
8 Yearsyrs
Staff Nurse Consultant Nurse Nursing Director
Chief Nursing Officer
13 Yearsyrs
Nurse Consultant Nurse Nursing Director
Director Of Health Services
10 Yearsyrs
Nurse Utilization Review Nurse Case Manager
Utilities Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Nurse Practitioner Case Manager Nursing Director
Managed Care Director
9 Yearsyrs
Nurse Instructor Therapist
Clinical Care Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Critical Care Nurse Nurse Practitioner Nurse Manager
Nursing Services Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Nurse Practitioner Nurse Manager
Emergency Services Director
10 Yearsyrs
Clinical Research Nurse Instructor Lead Teacher
Child Care Director
5 Yearsyrs
Clinical Research Nurse Consultant Nurse Assistant Director Of Nursing
Director Of Staff Development
7 Yearsyrs
Clinical Research Nurse Clinical Coordinator Clinical Manager
Manager Of Clinical Services
10 Yearsyrs
Critical Care Nurse Adjunct Faculty Clinician
Clinical Program Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Emergency Department Registered Nurse Clinic Registered Nurse Registered Nurse Case Manager
Hospice Director
12 Yearsyrs
Emergency Department Registered Nurse Clinic Registered Nurse Nurse Manager
Inpatient Services Director
12 Yearsyrs
Family Nurse Practitioner House Supervisor Assistant Director Of Nursing
Director Of Clinical Education
11 Yearsyrs
Team Leader President Field Director
Director Of Field Coordination
5 Yearsyrs
Family Nurse Practitioner Clinical Manager Director Of Health Services
Home Service Director
7 Yearsyrs
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Average Length of Employment
Staff Nurse 6.0 years
Registered Nurse 5.3 years
Neonatal Nurse 4.9 years
Trauma Nurse 3.8 years
Surgical Nurse 3.4 years
Step-Down Nurse 2.9 years
Telemetry Nurse 2.9 years
Top Careers Before Intensive Care Unit Nurse
Staff Nurse 23.1%
Nurse 7.2%
Top Careers After Intensive Care Unit Nurse
Staff Nurse 15.8%
Nurse 9.5%

Do you work as an Intensive Care Unit Nurse?

Intensive Care Unit Nurse Demographics

Gender

Female

68.8%

Male

15.7%

Unknown

15.4%
Ethnicity

White

61.0%

Hispanic or Latino

15.4%

Black or African American

12.5%

Asian

7.4%

Unknown

3.7%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

57.7%

French

9.0%

German

3.8%

Portuguese

2.6%

Somali

2.6%

Vietnamese

2.6%

Hindi

2.6%

Korean

2.6%

Italian

2.6%

Swahili

1.3%

Igbo

1.3%

Ukrainian

1.3%

Cherokee

1.3%

Amharic

1.3%

Gujarati

1.3%

Dari

1.3%

Cheyenne

1.3%

Tagalog

1.3%

Russian

1.3%

Urdu

1.3%
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Intensive Care Unit Nurse Education

Schools

University of Phoenix

16.5%

Walden University

11.8%

Grand Canyon University

9.4%

Chamberlain College of Nursing

7.5%

University of Alabama at Birmingham

5.2%

South University

4.7%

Drexel University

4.3%

University of Texas at Arlington

4.1%

University of Pennsylvania

3.9%

Florida International University

3.4%

University of South Alabama

3.4%

Indiana Wesleyan University

3.4%

University of South Florida

2.8%

Vanderbilt University

2.8%

Molloy College

2.8%

Georgetown University

2.8%

University of Maryland - Baltimore

2.8%

University of Florida

2.8%

University of Missouri - Saint Louis

2.8%

Western Governors University

2.8%
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Majors

Nursing

78.7%

Family Practice Nursing

4.6%

Nursing Science

3.8%

Business

3.0%

Health Care Administration

1.6%

Clinical Psychology

1.0%

Education

1.0%

Management

0.9%

Public Health

0.8%

Health/Medical Preparatory Programs

0.8%

Pharmacy

0.5%

Psychology

0.5%

Biology

0.4%

Health Sciences And Services

0.4%

Medicine

0.3%

Nursing Assistants

0.3%

Medical Assisting Services

0.3%

Communication

0.3%

Liberal Arts

0.2%

Physician Assistant

0.2%
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Degrees

Masters

37.3%

Bachelors

37.1%

Associate

11.7%

Other

7.2%

Doctorate

3.4%

Certificate

1.7%

Diploma

1.2%

License

0.3%
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Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary
Average Yearly Salary
$78,000
View Detailed Salary Report
$46,000
Min 10%
$78,000
Median 50%
$78,000
Median 50%
$78,000
Median 50%
$78,000
Median 50%
$78,000
Median 50%
$78,000
Median 50%
$78,000
Median 50%
$134,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
trustaff
Highest Paying City
San Francisco, CA
Highest Paying State
Minnesota
Avg Experience Level
3.7 years
How much does an Intensive Care Unit Nurse make at top companies?
The national average salary for an Intensive Care Unit Nurse in the United States is $78,781 per year or $38 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $46,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $134,000.

Real Intensive Care Unit Nurse Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Intensive Care Unit Registered Nurse Westways Staffing Services, Inc. Mesa, AZ Oct 01, 2011 $78,894
Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Staff Nurse Wyckoff Heights Medical Center New York, NY Dec 15, 2009 $75,018
Neonatal Intensive Care Unit RN South Miami Hospital, Inc. Miami, FL Jun 22, 2012 $71,404
Intensive Care Unit Nurse Manager GUAM Healthcare Development, Inc. Aug 25, 2016 $70,000
Medical Intensive Care Unit Assistant Nurse Manage Institute of California, LLC San Diego, CA Dec 07, 2011 $67,579
Intensive Care Unit Registered Nurse Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center Patchogue, NY Dec 15, 2009 $67,347 -
$39
Intensive Care Unit Nurse Medical Dynamic Systems, Inc. NY Sep 20, 2010 $63,003
Intensive Care Unit Nurse Manager GUAM Healthcare Development, Inc. Aug 25, 2016 $62,610
Intensive Care Unit Registered Nurse Westways Staffing Services, Inc. Smithville, TX Oct 01, 2011 $62,546
Intensive Care Unit Nurse Manager Institute of California, LLC San Diego, CA Oct 01, 2010 $61,027
Medical Intensive Care Unit Assistant Nurse Manage Institute of California, LLC San Diego, CA Aug 17, 2010 $61,027
Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Nurse Manager Institute of California LLC Los Angeles, CA Oct 01, 2010 $60,944
Intensive Care Unit Nurse Manager Institute of California LLC Los Angeles, CA Oct 01, 2009 $60,299
Intensive Care Unit-Registered Nurse Management Health Systems, Inc. Hialeah, FL Dec 10, 2009 $60,210
Intensive Care Unit-Registered Nurse Management Health Systems, Inc. Hialeah, FL Nov 09, 2009 $60,210

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Top Skills for An Intensive Care Unit Nurse

  1. Intensive Care
  2. Patient Care
  3. Charge Nurse
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Delivered responsive and compassionate care to the critically ill pediatric patient population in a ten-bed intensive care unit.
  • Consult and coordinate with health care team members to assess, plan, document, implement and evaluate patient care plans.
  • Provide strong contributions as charge nurse to identify and evaluate problems, manage patient census, and allocate staff assignments.
  • Provided direct patient care for critically ill patients including: trauma, post-operative, cardiac, respiratory, and neurological patients.
  • Planned and implemented nursing care to critically ill patients including post anesthesia for open-heart surgery patients.

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Top 10 Best States for Intensive Care Unit Nurses

  1. Hawaii
  2. Alaska
  3. Oregon
  4. New York
  5. Nevada
  6. Massachusetts
  7. Texas
  8. New Mexico
  9. New Hampshire
  10. Connecticut
  • (264 jobs)
  • (110 jobs)
  • (615 jobs)
  • (2,930 jobs)
  • (311 jobs)
  • (1,325 jobs)
  • (2,934 jobs)
  • (579 jobs)
  • (481 jobs)
  • (616 jobs)

Top Intensive Care Unit Nurse Employers

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Jobs From Top Intensive Care Unit Nurse Employers

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