What can I expect in Critical Care?


I am currently doing my last semester in Nursing and will be be under a preceptor in the critical care unit. I'm extremely nervous just finished a semester of peds and ob and I have no idea what to expect. How can I prepare myself and what are some skills that that I need to brush up on?

Daytonite, BSN, RN

4 Articles; 14,603 Posts

Specializes in med/surg, telemetry, IV therapy, mgmt. Has 40 years experience.

patients in the icus are there for close heart and respiratory monitoring and because they have problems like shock, mis, head and back injuries, severe electrolyte disturbances, respiratory, heart and renal failure. they will be on continuous ekg monitoring, ventilators, icp monitoring and perhaps other things. see these weblinks:


19 Posts

Don't freak out. It can be overwelming. Know an ART line, EKG.Know all the cardiac meds used in a code. Remember the patient can hear you no matter what. Talk to them tell them what you are doing evne if they are unconciousness


40 Posts

Thanks Brenda123!! I appreciate your reasurrance and advice.


32 Posts

Critical care can be overwhelming at first with all the machines, lines, and numbers on the monitor. Review some EKG basics (A-fib, SVT, Vfib/tach - no need to know specifics), have knowledge about different types of lines (arterial line for BP monitoring, central venous lines, etc.), might be a good idea to go over labs. Basic understanding of chest tubes, vents may also be a good idea.

Your preceptor will not expect you to know everything and will generally just appreciate an inquisitive, confident, interested student. Also, since your preceptor will only have 1-2 patients, she/he will likely be with you (or very close by) the whole time. If you're going to a ICU with a diverse patient population (e.g. SICU or MICU) - listen to report and if something interests you - speak up and tell your preceptor. Assertiveness is valued in Critical Care.

Relax - it will be fun and a great learning experience!

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