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Role Transition: ICU and Critical Care: Home

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Intensive Care Nurse

Intensive Care Unit Nurse

Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nurses, also called critical care nurses, take care of patients who are critically ill or facing potentially life-threatening challenges. These patients are often physically unstable, unconscious, or have extremely unhealthy vital signs. Intensive care unit nurses work in adult, pediatric, and neonatal Intensive Care Units (ICUs), Critical Care Unites (CCUs), and emergency rooms (ERs). Some intensive care unit nurses work in units that care for patients with specific medical problems, such as burn centers.

It is important to note that intensive care unit nurses work with patients who are likely to die. Therefore, it is recommended that ICU and critical care nurses have a strong and communicative support system, such as a therapist, close family, or community organization.

Daily Tasks of an Intensive Care Unit Nurse

  • Assess patient vitals and disposition
  • Documents patient care, protocols, and procedures
  • Create and administer treatment plans
  • Use advanced life support equipment and other monitoring devices
  • Collaborate with doctors and other nurses and medical staff
  • Administer treatments
  • Educate and support patient’s families

ICU standards

The America Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN) sets ICU standards of care that are included in hospital’s policies and procedures. Generally accepted standards of practice include:

  • Check and record vital signs hourly
  • Head-to-toe assessment and documentation every 4 hours 
  • Daily lab draws
  • Frequent evaluation of telemetry monitoring
  • Repositioning and skin integrity check every two hours
  • Constant critical thinking to determine worst case scenarios and prepare for each scenario

*Information from

Critical Care Team

A group of specially trained caregivers who work in a special area of the hospital known as the intensive care unit (ICU). They come from many professions and can help very ill patients get better. The care team often teach the patient and family strategies that improve health and well-being.Members of the team usually include one or more of these caregivers: 

  • Intensivist
  • Critical care nurse
  • Pharmacist
  • Registered dietitian
  • Respiratory therapist
  • Physical therapist
  • Occupational therapist 
  • Chaplain

Members of the team may also include one or more of these caregivers:

  • Physician assistant or nurse practitioner
  • Child life specialist

Critical Care FAQs

UIC Chicago Online ICU Guidebook: The purpose of this website is to provide residents with quick online access to information that will help during your ICU/CCU rotations.

Common ICU Safety and Health Hazards

ICU Statistics