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Starting in ICU


I did a search and couldn't find very much helpful information, even though I'm sure this has already been addressed. Anyways, I'm a new grad and I've been hired straight into ICU at the major public teaching hospital in my area. I'm looking for any tips or helpful advice for those who have been in my shoes. It sounds like we get a good orientation - 3 weeks of straight classroom followed by a 16 week orientation, during which we work 2 x 12h shifts in a unit with a preceptor and spend another 16h/wk in class (half of that is the ECCO system online). We don't get to choose our unit, although I was told we can list our top few choices, and we can move after 6 months. Does anyone have any good advice for how to stay on top of everything? I don't have any health care experience, but I do have great people skills from 12 years in the service industry. Thanks!


Specializes in ER/Critical Care. Has 5 years experience.

First of all CONGRATS!!

It sounds like you get a GREAT orientation-I would take that time as being just like in school more. (I'm a little jealous!) Take advantage of every learning opportunity that comes your way, and the more that people know you want in on things, the more people will search you out for cool stuff.

I also started in an ICU as a new grad. The biggest tips that I have for survival would be:

-Ignore the naysayers. There are going to be people that are on the units that either weren't comfortably enough as a new grad to go right into an ICU or weren't allowed to go straight in, and those people think that new grads shouldn't be allowed in an ICU. They are entitled to their opinions-just nod and then walk away, knowing that you can prove them wrong. (I've been out only a year, and I'm already superusers for some new equipment things, and have been able to teach some of the more experienced nurses things-like setting up abdominal pressure readings!)

-ALWAYS ask questions. I have very rarely been critiqued for asking a question; for the most part in an ICU the more questions you ask, the more credibility you will gain because people will trust that if you are in over your head you will ask for help-the quiet ones usually get run off because no one trusts them with the sick ones!

-Make yourself available to learn new things. I made it very clear on my floor that I wanted to gain as much knowledge and experience as possible, and now people know to come and find me when they have something unusual that I can learn from. It's really nice! (It was because of this that I knew how to set up the bladder pressure system, and when another nurse didn't know how I was able to step in and help-a very cool feeling!)

Basically, absorb everything. And remember when you get overwhelmed, that it does get easier, and things to start making more sense as you have time with it! If you are finding that you are struggling with orientation stuff, I would recommend checking out ICU Made Incredibly Easy-it breaks stuff down nicely in my opinion. Good luck!!

NotReady4PrimeTime, RN

Specializes in NICU, PICU, PCVICU and peds oncology. Has 25 years experience.

Excellent reply. If you check out some of the stickies on the PICU forum you'll find similar answers. The basics apply across the board; you might learn something there even though you aren't looking after peds.

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