Critical Care Nurse  What They Do

Just the Facts


Provides advanced nursing care for patients in critical or coronary care units.

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


A person in this career:

  • Evaluates patients' vital signs or laboratory data to determine emergency intervention needs.
  • Monitors patients for changes in status and indications of conditions such as sepsis or shock and institutes appropriate interventions.
  • Administers medications intravenously, by injection, orally, through gastric tubes, or by other methods.
  • Sets up and monitors medical equipment and devices such as cardiac monitors, mechanical ventilators and alarms, oxygen delivery devices, transducers, or pressure lines.
  • Conducts pulmonary assessments to identify abnormal respiratory patterns or breathing sounds that indicate problems.
  • Assesses patients' pain levels or sedation requirements.
  • Monitors patients' fluid intake and output to detect emerging problems such as fluid and electrolyte imbalances.
  • Documents patients' medical histories and assessment findings.
  • Prioritize nursing care for assigned critically ill patients, based on assessment data or identified needs.
  • Administers blood and blood products, monitoring patients for signs and symptoms related to transfusion reactions.

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
  • Exposed to radiation more than once a month
  • Work in this occupation involves making repetitive motions more than one-third of the time
  • 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
  • Detecting sounds and hearing the differences between sounds of different pitch and loudness
  • 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:

  • Burn Center Nurse --
  • Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory Registered Nurse --
  • Catheterization Laboratory Senior Manager (Cath Lab Senior Manager) --
  • Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN) --
  • Critical Care Unit Manager --
  • ICU Staff Nurse (Intensive Care Unit Staff Nurse) --
  • Intensive Care Unit Nurse --
  • Registered Nurse Supervisor (RN Supervisor) --
  • Staff Nurse --
  • Staff Nurse, ICU Resource Team (Staff Nurse, Intensive Care Unit Resource Team) --