Acute Care Nurse  What They Do

Just the Facts


Provides advanced nursing care for patients with acute conditions such as heart attacks, respiratory distress syndrome, or shock. May care for pre- and post-operative patients or perform advanced, invasive diagnostic or therapeutic procedures.

This career is part of the Health Science cluster Therapeutic Services pathway.


A person in this career:

  • Performs emergency medical procedures, such as basic cardiac life support (BLS), advanced cardiac life support (ACLS), and other condition stabilizing interventions.
  • Manages patients' pain relief and sedation by providing pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic interventions, monitoring patients' responses, and changing care plans accordingly.
  • Documents data related to patients' care including assessment results, interventions, medications, patient responses, or treatment changes.
  • Diagnoses acute or chronic conditions that could result in rapid physiological deterioration or life-threatening instability.
  • Administers blood and blood product transfusions or intravenous infusions, monitoring patients for adverse reactions.
  • Assesses urgent and emergent health conditions using both physiologically and technologically derived data.
  • Assesses the impact of illnesses or injuries on patients' health, function, growth, development, nutrition, sleep, rest, quality of life, or family, social and educational relationships.
  • Interprets information obtained from electrocardiograms (EKGs) or radiographs (x-rays).
  • Obtains specimens or samples for laboratory work.
  • Collaborates with patients to plan for future health care needs or to coordinate transitions and referrals.

Working Conditions and Physical Demands

People who do this job report that:

  • You would often handle loads up to 10 lbs., sometimes up to 20 lbs. You might do a lot of walking or standing, or you might sit but use your arms and legs to control machines, equipment or tools.
  • Work in this occupation involves bending or twisting your body more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves use of protective items such as safety shoes, glasses, gloves, hearing protection, a hard hat, or personal flotation devices
  • Exposure to pollutants, gases, dust, fumes, odors, poor ventilation, etc.
  • Requires getting into awkward positions
  • Exposed to disease and infections more than once a month through work such as patient care, laboratory work, and sanitation control
  • Work in this occupation involves using your hands to hold, control, and feel objects more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation requires being inside most of the time
  • Sound and noise levels are loud and distracting
  • Work in this occupation involves use of special protective items such as a breathing apparatus, safety harness, full protection suit, or radiation protection
  • Work in this occupation involves standing more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves walking or running more than one-third of the time

Working in this career involves (physical activities):

  • Identifying color and seeing differences in color, including shades and brightness
  • Seeing clearly up close
  • Speaking clearly enough to be able to be understood by others
  • Identifying and understanding the speech of another person

Work Hours and Travel

  • Rotating shift work
  • Weekend work

Specialty and Similar Careers

Careers that are more detailed or close to this career:

  • Charge Nurse --
  • Charge Nurse, Cardiac Interventional Care --
  • Clinical Educator --
  • Clinical Nurse Educator --
  • Clinical Staff Educator --
  • Nurse Manager --
  • Nursing Director --
  • Preceptor --
  • Progressive Care Unit Registered Nurse --
  • Staff Nurse --