Critical Care Nurses


Employment Prospects


Contrary to previously held beliefs that critical care nurses work only in intensive care units or cardiac care units of hospitals, today's critical care nurses work in the emergency departments, post-anesthesia recovery units, pediatric intensive care units, burn units, cardiac catheter labs, interventional radiology departments, and neonatal intensive care units of medical facilities, as well as in other units that treat critically ill patients. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there are 3.1 million registered nurses in the United States, including critical care nurses.

Starting Out

You must first become a registered nurse before you can work as a critical care nurse. Aspiring registered nurses must complete one of the three kinds of educational programs and pass the licensing examination. Registered nurses may apply for employment directly to hospitals, nursing homes, and companies and government agencies that hire nurses. Jobs can also be obtained through school career services offices, by signing up with employment agencies specializing in placement of nursing personnel, or through the state employment office. Other sources of jobs include nurses' associations, professional journals, and newspaper want ads. The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses and other professional associations also have job listings on their Web sites.

Advancement Prospects

Administrative and supervisory positions in the nursing field go to nurses who have earned at least a bachelor of science degree in nursing. Nurses with many years of experience who are graduates of a diploma program may achieve supervisory positions, but requirements for such promotions have become more difficult in recent years and in many cases require at least the bachelor of science in nursing degree.

Tips for Entry

Volunteer or work part time at a hospital or other health care facility to become acquainted with patient care.

Contact your local hospital or health care facility to arrange an information interview with a critical care nurse.

Become certified in CPR and first aid.