ICU Nurse Personality Traits?

  1. I realize that this is probably a chicken-or-egg type of question, but do you feel that ICU nurses share certain personality traits?
    What traits are they and why?

    I'm trying to figure out if I'm suitable material for ICU, to be honest. I'm doing a lot of soul-searching on this because it entails a lot of work just to get to the interview process, and I want to make sure it's right for me.

    I've always thought I should be in ICU, but maybe that's an outdated idea. Maybe I'm simply not up to it--physically, emotionally, intellectually--any more.

    So I thought I'd ask you for your thoughts on what it takes to make a good ICU nurse.
  2. Visit UM Review RN profile page

    About UM Review RN, RN

    Joined: Aug '04; Posts: 9,280; Likes: 4,300


    hummmmmm angie, you've got a few issues going on here.

    let's see...the personality of most icu nurses i work with is one of support. all the seasoned nurses know their stuff & have no problem in helping each other, new to practice or new to critical care colleagues out either. having worked days & night shift...i find a bit more support on the night shift than days simply because there's more time available & there's not a lot of extra bodies on the unit then. lol...what i mean by extra bodies is we don't have all the consults, students, & families about. most of our patients are already "there" for the most part by 7pm...sure there's times when we get admissions & transfers at night. but most admissions & transfers from the floor, ed, or or are done during the days. we do get that occasional emergency surgery case in the middle of the night...but even then...pacu nurses on call usually recover them & we admit them after the standard recover period of time has passed. it can also get a little hectic during days with the "road trips" to ct/mri/radiology as well...not that we don't do road trips at night mind...but for the most part...those are done during days. then you got the residents changing orders at a drop of a hat only to have the attendings change it!! that's enough to drive anyone! perhaps if you (no when you) do decide to apply for the icu position...may be it would be better to precept at night until you're comfortable with your knowledge/skills.

    most facilities today will place employees new to critical care through their critical care orientation which usually consist of a lengthy perceptorship/orientation period of say three to six months. i think you should at least give yourself a chance to go through your facility's program & if at the end, it's not for'd always can transfer back or to another area.

    i find the nurses i work with to be pretty darn supportive to one another. sure...we have those "hot-dog" nurses that have type a personalities...but you'll find them in every area of nursing. don't let that stop you from at least giving it that ole college try

    good luck in whatever you decide to do ~ cheers,
  4. by   Dalzac
    aggressive,intense. I know that when in a code blue situation if you are in the way you will be moved one way or another. Its not if we were cranky or mean, it's just that if you don't know what you are doing or inexperienced I would just move you or bully to get in front because there is so little time for the patient. I have apoligized more than once after a code because I was gruff or abrasive
  5. by   MissNickiRN
    I have been and ICU nurse for a year now and I have had time to observe many different personality traits. You have your type A personalities who are so much better at the technical side of nursing. You have your very compassionate nurses who are so good with the families, especially when it comes to getting them to finally make the hard decision to make their family member a DNR. But for the most part ALL are such team players and see the patients as not just 1 individual nurses patients but all the nurses working that nights pts. We are for the most part very helpful to each other. I was a floor nurse for a year and did not experience that kind of teamwork but of course you don't really have time for that on the floor with 7 pts
  6. by   UM Review RN
    Quote from Dalzac
    aggressive,intense. I know that when in a code blue situation if you are in the way you will be moved one way or another. Its not if we were cranky or mean, it's just that if you don't know what you are doing or inexperienced I would just move you or bully to get in front because there is so little time for the patient. I have apoligized more than once after a code because I was gruff or abrasive
    Hah! Guilty. I've done the same thing in a few near-Code respiratory failures.

    There's just no time for people to be putzing around doing the wrong thing in a situation like that.
  7. by   lady_jezebel
    They are generally just like any other nurse. However, I have noticed that many ICU nurses where I work are more ANAL about trivial details than the floor nurses -- in other words, less flexible about the small stuff. It's as if some of them truly miss out on the big picture of patient care & work flow, though there is a better understanding of physiology & treatment. This makes some nurses really hard on their coworkers who do things in a manner different from the unit culture, even though each nurse provides safe care in her/his own way. Sometimes ICU nurses can seem to be needlessly petty. Anyway, ICU nurses are self-admitted control freaks.

    Overall, I still prefer to work in the ICU over the floor.
  8. by   Super_RN
    [font="lucida sans unicode"]aggressive (in a good way)! be able to take charge in chaotic situations!

    i believe we have to be more self-sufficient. we don't have aides or secretaries, so we manage all patient care and orders. it may not be like that where you work though.

    being thorough is a necessity. for example, on the floor you might mention that urine output was ok, but in icu (maybe it's just me, who knows?) if someone is on an hourly check i will say "output has ranged from 18 to 44 ml/hr".

    organization is a priority!!

    hmmm...what else, what else....

    teamwork is a major factor. i work midnights and my co-hort is usually the only other person in the unit besides patients. one good turn deserves another (literally)!:biere:

    asking questions when you are unsure of something is always a good, good, good thing!

    good luck!!

  9. by   Super_RN
    Quote from lady_jezebel
    Anyway, ICU nurses are self-admitted control freaks.

    That's me alright!!!
  10. by   PJMommy
    Most ICU nurses I work with are:
    - confident (not arrogant)
    - stubborn, vocal patient advocates
    - strong personalities who aren't afraid to have an "animated discussion" about the best plan for a patient
    - outspoken
    - detailed
    - ALL are TEAM players (notice how this comes up in nearly all the posts) can't really be one of those people who wants to be left alone and take care of her/his own patients
    - VERY protective of "their" patients
    - thick-skinned
    - willing and eager to keep learning, and learning, and learning
    - like ALL nurses, must be able to multitask and organize

    I don't think any of these qualities precludes a nurse from being compassionate, caring and wonderful with families. Many have the whole package.
  11. by   ERNurse752
    I didn't read too many details on this thread yet b/c I'm in a hurry to get to bed, but just wanted to say if you're wondering whether you're cut out for ICU, try shadowing someone for a few shifts to get a feel for it.

    Good luck!
  12. by   childpsych74
    I worked ICU for 4 years before I got burned out (with nursing in general), moved to the country to homeschool our kids and raise goats and chickens. I quit work only a few months ago and honestly, I miss the camraderie. I miss the sarcasm that accompanies some of the medical decisions, the pushing of code drugs on a DNR because the physician justifies that if we correct the underlying bradycardia with atropine, give a mega dose of Lasix and intubate the patient, that will also cure the terminal cancer. I miss the team baths we'd give to the filthy ER admits. I miss the banter. It is the most team-oriented part of nursing. I miss being able to tell the physician on rounds what the patient needs and him actually writing it. I hated the families. We had an open unit for the most part and I hated the fact that the families researched everything on the internet, questioned every little thing down to stool softener choice, and generally wouldn't stay out of your face for 2 seconds. The families burned me out....and I worked nights.

    But I miss my wonderful coworkers. Would I recommend it - yes, if you have to be a nurse, ICU is the place to be. You see lives saved and end. You see the direct results of your treatment. You generally get to care for one patient for days/weeks and get to know, and even care for, SOME of the families.

    Do it girl. I'm shy but you can't be shy in ICU. If you need help, you have to scream loud. I'm definitely more assertive having worked there.
  13. by   Thunderwolf
    Are we confusing aggressive with assertive?
  14. by   my2sons
    Quote from Thunderwolf
    Are we confusing aggressive with assertive?
    Well said, Thunderwolf.
    Oh, and I have to laugh at the "anal" post. Attention to detail many times is the difference between an alive patient and a dead one.