A Day in the Life of an ICU Nurse

The demand for ICU nurses increased during the pandemic. So, could this role be right for you? Here’s a brief overview of a day in the life of an ICU nurse.

Where Do ICU Nurses Work?

As the title suggests, ICU nurses work in intensive care units in hospitals. ICUs or intensive therapy units are reserved for critically ill patients. These patients may have undergone surgery, experienced a trauma such as a car accident, or suffered from a life-threatening disease. Although some ICU nurses specialize in an area such as pediatric (PICU) or cardiac (CICC) care, others treat multiple conditions.

What Are Typical Hours?

An ICU patient may quickly and unexpectedly take a turn for the worse. Therefore, critical care units run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days per year. As a result, ICU nurses often work nights, holidays, and weekends. In most cases, they report for four 12-hour shifts each week. These could be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. day shifts, 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. night shifts, or a combination of day and night shifts.

What Does a Day in the Life of an ICU Nurse Involve?

Because ICU patients are so vulnerable, they require close supervision. Thus, ICUs nurses usually care for only one to two individuals at a time. They start their day (or night) by checking in with the outgoing team. Then, as with other nursing positions, they spend the next twelve hours looking after their patients. However, since patients may be intubated or have IV drips, ICU nurses must understand how to use advanced medical equipment. Additionally, they need to chart and monitor more frequently. In fact, ICU patients could have at least two to three times more documentation than non-ICU patients.

Other Duties Include:

  • Regularly assessing/reassessing patients
  • Documenting changes and updating records
  • Administering medications
  • Checking/setting up equipment (ventilators, IV pumps)
  • Caring for wounds
  • Helping patients with basic needs
  • Responding to emergencies
  • Coordinating care with other medical professionals
  • Interacting with and comforting patients’ families
  • Assisting with patient admissions and discharges
  • Correctly using PPE (N95 respirators, face shields, disposable gloves)

How Do You Become an ICU Nurse?

ICU nurses must be highly trained registered nurses or RNs. Most hospitals prefer to hire ICU nurses with Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees. Also, ICU nurses need two years of experience in a position specializing in intensive care. After this, they can take an exam to receive Certification for Adult Critical Care Nurses (CCRN). This certification improves both employability and overall earning potential.


Are You Looking for More Career Advice?

BOS Medical Staffing offers multiple “Day in the Life” articles. You can learn more about becoming an Assisted Living Nurse, an Occupational Health Nurse, a Long-Term Care Nurse, and more. And if you’re ready to get to work, our recruiters will help with that too. We’re hiring RNs, LPNs, and CNAs in Calhoun, Georgia, and beyond.  Browse all our available openings and discover your next opportunity today!

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