Essential Skills for an ICU Nurse

Posted in Career Blog

While nurses in all branches of the industry have complex jobs, an Intensive Care Unit nurse faces different challenges each and every day. The lives of their patients depend on these nurses’ ability to think, act and execute quickly and efficiently. Listed below are four of the primary skills and qualities that an ICU nurse must possess.

Critical Thinking Skills
The patients that enter the ICU daily are admitted into this part of the hospital either because they have been critically injured or because they have an illness, disease or disorder which threatens their lives. Sometimes, these patients can deteriorate very quickly without the proper immediate intervention. A good ICU nurse can quickly assess the situation and make near-instantaneous decisions about how to best care for the patient. They will be required to determine when a physician should be immediately involved in the patient’s care, they are required to manage ‘codes’—instances in which life-saving measures like CPR must be used, and they must administer the proper medications in the right dosages.

Compassion and Empathy
When a patient has been critically injured or is faced with a situation that he or she may not survive, the patient is likely feeling a wide range of emotions which could have a direct effect on his or her recovery. On the same note, the patient’s family members are likely terrified, sad and apprehensive. The ICU nurse is usually the main line of communication between the doctors, the patients and the families, so he or she must be able to speak with these people with a certain level of compassion and empathy. While it is important to be matter-of-fact about the patient’s condition, the nurses must put themselves in the shoes of the patient and his or her family.

Observation Skills
A patient’s condition can change instantaneously, and an ICU nurse who can pick up on these changes quickly stands a better chance of imparting live-saving measures than an individual who is unobservant or unsure of what the changes mean. A good intensive care unit nurse is always observant and makes his or her rounds carefully, all the while monitoring each patient and documenting even minor changes. When a patient is admitted into the ICU, the nurse should be able to take a very detailed history, listening very carefully for cues, and the nurse should use mannerisms and language that persuade the patient to provide the necessary information.

Teamwork Skills

An ICU nurse cannot save the lives of patients alone; he or she must work hand in hand with a team of nurses, aides, physicians, specialists and others to provide the best quality patient care possible. As a result, teamwork and people skills are must-haves. Nurses should be able to provide information to team members, listen carefully as other information is being provided, and be willing to step back and allow another team member to intervene if it becomes necessary to do so.
It is evident that an ICU nurse certainly has a lot on his or her plate, but individuals who possess the skills listed here will go further in their careers and work more efficiently.

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