I've been working in the ICU at a large teaching hospital for over a year now. I started as a Critical Care Tech, then moved up to Apprentice Nurse. Only once have I seen a patient/nurse ratio 1:3; it's always 1:2 or sometimes, if the patient is extremely ill, it's 1:1. We do have a tech who helps with patient turns and fills up our supplies, etc. but to be honest, the RN's all work together to help each other. I think the teamwork in my unit is terrific...it's one reason I'm excited to be staying on as an RN after I graduate. I have done clinicals in just about every other part of the hospital and the nurses in our ICU definitely work together more than any other floor or unit I've seen.
I will say this....when they had to give a few nurses 3 patients, boy did they scramble!! LOL. The nurses there are not used to taking 3 patients and it shows with nurses who haven't worked a med-surg floor before. The organization skills needed in the ICU are completely different than those on a regular floor. I have a lot of respect for med-surg nurses because they have amazing time management skills and are super organized for the most part. I'm always in awe of how they manage to care for as many as 8 or 9 patients and do a pretty damn good job at it (well, most..not all).
I prefer the ICU because I like being responsible for total patient care. I don't want to rely on someone else to give baths, take vitals, etc. I enjoy the time I spend with my patients, doing baths. It's one of the things that drew me to the ICU in the first place.