Patients in critical care conditions are unstable. They have low and erratic vitals and may even be unconscious. Ultimately these patients’ futures are uncertain and their conditions may result in death. Individuals who fall into this challenging category require specialized and attentive care. Outside of their physician and specialists, it is the critical care nurses who will help to ensure that their changing needs are met from moment to moment.
Nurses in the critical care field will care for patients of all ages - from young children to the elderly - who have experienced serious medical conditions. In additional to standard nursing fundamentals, critical care nurses are expected to be skilled in patient assessments and human physiology as well as the use of technology in administering care. Patients of critical nurses are frequently in tenuous health and require constant monitoring. Frequent recordings of vitals and blood oxygen levels are essential. In fact, depending on the patient's condition, these tasks may need to be performed several times an hour.
Critical care nurses work closely with physicians and specialists and are expected to communicate any change in a patient’s condition to them, enabling them to alter treatment in response to the patient’s worsening or improved condition. It is essential that as a care provider you are able to assess a patient’s condition quickly and accurately, especially if a patient exhibits signs indicating they are not responding favorably to treatment.
With such a vulnerable patient base, it is essential that critical care nurses receive the best possible education to prepare them for their role. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), “Education has a significant impact on the knowledge and competencies of the nurse clinician, as it does for all health care providers. Nurses with Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees are well-prepared to meet the demands placed on today's nurse.”
Regardless of which type of setting they choose to work in, nurses with a BSN degree are valued by employers due to their level of education and diverse skill set. What’s more, there is evidence to support that such an education can make a key difference in critical care. In fact, a 2007 study published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing found that, “BSN-prepared nurses have a positive impact on lowering mortality rates.” The study evaluated 46,993 patients who had all been admitted in serious condition including heart attack, stroke, pneumonia and blood poisoning. Their findings indicated that a 10 percent increase of BSN educated nurses resulted in 9 or fewer deaths out of every 1,000 patients that were discharged.