Inside the world of ICU nursing and its vital role in critical patient care

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Patients who require specialist treatment are admitted to the hospital’s intensive treatment unit (ICU). ICU patients require careful observation, are very sick, or have suffered severe injuries. It is the place where patients who are in a critical condition are kept under strict supervision of the medical staff. For example, patients who have just had a critical surgery, accidents, and serious health conditions that require constant monitoring such as kidney failure, sepsis, stroke, etc. This article will explore the various aspects of the intensive care unit, along with ICU nursing and its role in critical patient care. 

What to expect at the ICU?

ICU units can be intimidating environments. The cables, tubes, lines, and monitoring equipment by patients’ beds can be daunting. It is possible to find ICU patients who have several machines attached to them. Artificial ventilators and cardiac monitors are the most often used devices. When the patients are unable to breathe on their own, they require an artificial ventilator.

Several ICU devices emit loud noises, alerts, and beeps. These sounds are crucial because they alert personnel to any changes in patients’ conditions. There might be several tubes entering or leaving the patients’ bodies. These tubes eliminate waste fluids and provide them with nutrients and hydration. The ICU has a large number of medical personnel. Typically, each patient receives a personal expert nurse. This nurse inspects the machinery and any life-sustaining equipment on a regular basis. The medical staff in the ICU should be aware of how upsetting the ICU can be when it comes to dealing with patients’ loved ones. 

Individuals involved in providing care in the ICU

The first people you will come across in an ICU are ICU doctors. Numerous intensive care unit physicians can be engaged in your loved one’s treatment. A physician with specific training and expertise in providing care for critically sick patients is known as an attending physician or internist. A physician who has almost finished their training is an ICU Fellow. Physicians starting their training in specialty areas such as the intensive care unit are known as residents. The ICU fellows supervise the residents’ work. 

You will also come across many therapists in the ICU. For example, health care providers with specialized knowledge of the respiratory system (lungs), also known as respiratory therapists, help oversee a variety of breathing assistance therapies, including oxygen therapy, ventilators, and certain drugs. Similarly, the ICU also has a team of physiotherapists who help patients maintain their mobility despite their conditions. Even when patients are really sick, physiotherapists assist both the ICU team and the patients in moving them safely. Early on in their ICU stay, it’s critical that patients move around. This can significantly help patients to preserve their lung capacity, breathe without the aid of a machine, and/or regain their stamina after a significant sickness by doing simple activities such as sitting up, standing, and walking.

Another group of individuals you will find in an ICU are nurses. In fact, you will find nurses working round the clock in an ICU as the entire ICU is dependent on their work. Critical care is a specialty area of training for ICU nurses. The person who will provide your loved one with direct care is the bedside nurse. ICU nurses often care for just one patient at a time so they can keep a close eye on them and act fast if anything changes. The charge nurse, often known as the clinical nurse supervisor (CNS), is in charge of maintaining the efficient operation of an entire unit. 

How can you become an ICU Nurse?

This section will cover all you need to know about how to become an ICU nurse. Becoming an ICU nurse requires you to possess a specific level of education, training, experience, and skills. A BSN degree puts aspiring nurses in good stead to become ICU nurses, teaching them a variety of important skills and techniques. The Holy Family University offers an accelerated BSN that is taught completely online. Their program will teach you all you need to learn to become a qualified and competent ICU nurse. The best part is the ability to study and complete the course from the comfort of your home, with a clinical placement in a healthcare setting.

Role of ICU nurses in critical patient care

The healthcare provider who manages severely sick patients who need specialized medical monitoring is an intensive care unit (ICU) nurse. They are employed by hospitals and healthcare institutes in their intensive care units. Determining if an ICU nurse is the proper medical career path for you might be aided by understanding what an ICU nurse does. In this section of the article, we go over the responsibilities of intensive care unit nurses and outline some of the tasks and obligations they play as medical professionals.

The duties of an ICU nurse are countless. In fact, it seems that ICU nurses have the greatest number of responsibilities as compared to any other nurse in a hospital. One of an ICU nurse’s duties is to give critically ill or wounded patients the essential care they require. They go through extensive training in order to care for patients who have had significant invasive procedures such as surgeries, cardiac arrests, or strokes. Intensive care unit (ICU) nurses keep a tight eye on their patients and act quickly if something changes. Exceptional communication, interpersonal, and analytical abilities are necessary for an ICU nurse. In addition to providing immediate critical care, you can expect ICU nurses to fulfill the following tasks as well.

Observing the growth and progression of the patient

Vital indicators such as oxygen saturation, heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, and respiration rate are all kept track of by an intensive care unit nurse. They constantly check on their patients and document all they see. They notify the doctor or more senior members of the medical staff if the patient’s condition changes significantly. They also search for shock or sepsis symptoms that need immediate medical attention.

Helping doctors perform procedures 

An ICU nurse can set up devices for any procedures a patient needs, and they can also help the doctor perform the procedure itself. For example, they can help with endoscopy, mechanical ventilation, bone marrow transplants, selective cardioversion, endotracheal intubations, and chest or peritoneal drain insertion.

Carrying out diagnostic procedures

To evaluate how a patient is doing or as an element of medical research to identify the best course of therapy, an ICU nurse can suggest or carry out diagnostic tests. These tests might consist of, for instance, a fluoroscopy to identify heart or digestive conditions, a colonoscopy to check the colon for any indications of malignant development, an electrocardiogram (ECG) to measure the levels of cardiac indicators that signal heart function, and arterial blood gas to measure blood acidity, oxygen, and carbon dioxide concentrations in a patient.

Keeping track of a patient’s food and hydration

Nurses can detect new issues, such as liquid and electrolyte imbalances, by closely monitoring a patient’s fluid consumption and output. ICU nurses keep an eye on each patient’s food to reduce the possibility of problems arising from malnutrition. They determine if post-operative patients who have become unable to consume what their bodies need to be fed require nutritional supplements or nasogastric tube feeding.

Monitoring the amount of physical activity

In order to provide post-operative patients with increased mobility, an ICU nurse may collaborate with physiotherapists. This covers minor achievements such as learning to walk with assistance or transitioning to short-term chair use. The nurse may keep a careful eye on the patient during these exercises to make sure they are improving and aren’t becoming too weary from doing too much too quickly.

Medication administration to ICU patients

ICU nurses give patients their meds in accordance with their doctor’s directions. This job includes the setup and oversight of intravenous fluids. After starting a new medicine, they closely monitor the patient to look for any negative side effects and get in touch with the treating physician if there are any.

Taking care of patients’ sedation and pain

Establishing a healing environment requires careful management of a patient’s discomfort and amount of sedation. Unrelieved pain might negatively impact a patient’s recovery process psychologically by lowering immune function. Using several pain assessment techniques, the ICU nurse can determine if the amount of pain medication is appropriate or needs to be adjusted. This covers the amount of sedation needed by the patient at various points during the healing process.

Handling injuries

Bedridden patients in the ICU may get sores from repeated lying positions. During the day, they are assisted by ICU nurses in moving and changing postures. In order to keep wounds from progressing or becoming chronic, nurses must treat any potential wounds. Nurses frequently replace the bedding in their rooms because a sterile atmosphere promotes recovery.

Giving patients life support whenever needed

Life support helps failing bodily organs continue to operate by providing mechanical assistance. Dialysis devices support kidney function, whereas ventilators maintain lung function. For patients who have become unable to eat, feeding tubes are another operation that is regarded as life support, as are electric shocks for failing hearts.

Making sure every piece of ICU equipment is functioning properly

ICU nurses must make sure that every piece of equipment at their station is in excellent working order. They recognize broken machinery or gadgets and set up quick fixes. After usage, they properly store and clean every piece of equipment. Some of the most important machinery to keep track of include ventilators, pulse oximeters, feeding tubes, defibrillators, and central venous pressure lines among many others. 

Giving preoperative medical attention

The goal of preoperative care is to get the patient ready for surgery, both physically and emotionally. An ICU nurse reassures the patient, walks them through the process, and administers medication as needed to help them stay calm. A patient’s medical history must be thoroughly recorded as part of the physical preparation for surgery in order to inform the surgeon of any conditions that might result in difficulties, such as a history of diabetes, smoking, or allergies. In addition to confirming the surgery site, the nurse records the patient’s prescriptions and raises any ethical questions. The patient gives their signature to authorize the procedure at this point.

Delivering post-operative medical attention

When a patient enters the recovery area, post-operative treatment begins. While the patient recovers from the adverse effects of the anesthesia and gets back to normal, the nurses keep an eye on their mental health. Controlling pain and keeping an eye out for potential issues following surgery are common aspects of providing care for a patient in the recovery area. A skilled ICU nurse keeps an eye out for any symptoms of an infection in their patient since post-operative infections might happen.

Taking emergency medical action

An ICU nurse keeps an eye out for any abrupt or subtle changes in the patient’s vital signs and overall health. An ICU nurse reacts by stabilizing the patient and notifying the physician if the patient’s condition changes. They could help the physician carry out any operations required to get the patient back to a stable state.

Providing patients and their families with emotional support

A severely ill person’s mental state of mind can have a big impact on how well they recover. An ICU nurse can support a patient in maintaining an optimistic outlook. ICU nurses frequently have a positive, upbeat attitude, great interpersonal skills, and a high degree of empathy. Families of patients under their care might also receive emotional assistance from intensive care unit nurses. They could inform the patient’s relatives about the disease or trauma that sent their loved one to the intensive care unit. They are able to give up-to-date information on the patient’s status since they interact closely with every patient. They could also go over each device that is connected to the patient. A family may find it challenging to deal with their loved one being attached to so many odd-looking devices, and the ICU nurse can determine if assistance is required or if each family is managing on its own.

Managing less experienced nurses

Less trained or new nurses in the field may receive mentoring from an experienced ICU nurse. Even though some institutions have official mentoring programs in place, informal mentoring may be just as beneficial for less experienced nurses. In order to give each patient the most comprehensive treatment possible, medical staff in the intensive care unit frequently collaborate in teams. Mentoring can have a beneficial role in the relationship.

Record-keeping and reporting

Precise and comprehensive reports on the patients in the ICU are documented by an ICU nurse. Usually, this covers all signs and modifications to the patient’s state. It is essential to document the medical history of a patient and any evaluation results in order to track their advancement. They record patient treatment plans and confer with the medical staff in charge of their care. As the patient’s situation and reactions change, they keep an eye on the situation and document any treatments, plan results, or plan adjustments.

The important role of ICU nursing

The profession of an ICU nurse is highly demanding. It requires a lot of hard work, determination, and practical skills that can only be learned through formal education. If you wish to become an ICU nurse, be sure to pursue a BSN qualification from an accredited university to earn well and provide high-quality care for your patients.

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