Inside Intensive Care Nurse Careers

Things you need to know, but nobody tells you

Biggest Surprises

"Things I Didn't Learn In College...
I was really surprised at the amount of things they didn't teach in school. I really feel like I have learned more from co-workers who have been nurses for many years than I did from my teachers." (ICU Nurse; 2013)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in Ohio, female
School: Studied Nursing RN at COTC in Ohio; completed Associate degree in 2010

"Good And Bad Of What I Now Know About NICU Nursing...
The biggest surprise that I have found in my career as a nurse working in the NICU is how absolutely awe inspiring it can be. Both awe in medical advances used to treat my patients and even awe in how adaptive a tiny microscopic human body can be through critical events. On the opposite spectrum, another surprise that I wasn't prepared for, at least to the extent I am faced with, is the thought of when is medicine going too far. As a nurse, you want to help heal and not cause additional harm. It's hard sometimes treating patients, knowing that the treatment you're providing is most likely going to cause long term life changing negative events, at the cost of keeping a preterm baby alive. It is inevitable in some situations and I focus on the chance that NO adverse events will occur long term in order to justify it within myself." (Neonatal ICU; 2013)

Career: 7 years of experience, currently based in Arizona, female
School: Studied Nursing at Grand Canyon University in Arizona; completed Bachelor degree in 2006

"More Rewarding Than I Ever Imagined...
How emotionally rewarding my career choice has been to me was very surprising. I expected it to be a rewarding career, but to the extent that it actually can be rewarding I did not expect. I love how I feel when I go home at night after using the critical thinking skills I have learned to relay accurate information about someone's health to them in a way which seems comprehensible, especially when they leave saying I am so glad you were hear today." (Registered Nurse; 2012)

Career: 8 years of experience, currently based in Kentucky, female
School: Studied Nursing at Ashland Community And Technical College in Kentucky; completed Associate degree in 2004

"Under Pressure...
I have been extremely surprised at the amount of stress involved in my job. I knew before I started that there would be a great deal of responsibility but I had no idea the level of stress would be so great. As a nurse, you are the link between the patients acuity and the physician. With a full team of patients this can be very difficult." (Registered Nurse; 2012)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Oklahoma, male
School: Studied Nursing at Oklahoma University in Oklahoma; completed Bachelor degree in 2011

"Fulfilling And Stressful...
I was surprised at that being a nurse is such a hard, physical job. I was also surprised to find out how stressful it is to be in charge of people's lives. I was happy to discover that it is a job that makes me feel fulfilled." (Nurse; 2012)

Career: 12 years of experience, currently based in Alabama, female
School: Studied Nursing at University Of South Alabama in Alabama; completed Master degree in 2008

Best & Worst Things About This Career

Registered Nurse: "The best part of my job is when a patient or his family says "thank you" or tells me how helpful I've been to them. Even when a person is dying, it's important to care for them and their family. The worst part of my job is when people misdirect their anger or grief toward me. It can make you feel awfully mean and like nothing you do or say is going to comfort them." (2010)

Career Background

Intensive Care Nurse

  Job Tasks
  Work Environment
  How to Prepare for the Job
  Job Outlook

Career Video

Career Tips

"Externship Advice That May Lead To Job Placement...
When you are ready to start your externship, look for a hospital that is a teaching facility with an NICU (if your interest is the same as mine). You will be more likely to find a preceptor willing to work with nursing students and it will also give you an "in" to start work in your desired area, fresh out of nursing school!" (Neonatal ICU; 2013)

"Why You Should Be An Aide Before A Nurse...
Be a nurses aide while you are going to nursing school. It will help you in ways you couldn't even imagine, plus you will learn so much from the nurses you work with." (ICU Nurse; 2013)

"Pay Attention In Psychiatric Classes...
A nursing career is tough work. The education can be difficult. You are held to a high standard. It is so important to never break down and quit. Draw strength from the challenges. During clinical training, seek out the learning opportunities, get your hands-on experience. When it comes to taking the licensure exam, don't sweat it. By that time, you're a nurse. You just need a passing grade to prove it!!! Always remember your psychiatric education, regardless of what specialty of medicine you engage in. You will always meet a person with emotional needs who will challenge you." (Registered Nurse; 2010)