Subscribe to Notes on Nursing, our monthly news digest.
Thank you for subscribing!
Please fill in your email to continue.

Critical Care Nurse

A Critical Care or ICU Nurse takes care of patients who are in a critical condition or recovering from a serious medical condition.
Required education
Annual average salary
Higher salary
Earn more by having advanced skills and responsibilities.
Work on your own or even start your own practice, in some states.
Work hands-on, directly with patients.
Follow a routine that allows you to anticipate and prepare for every situation.
Take on different tasks, patients, and situations every day.
You’ll need to be able to assess patients and make decisions quickly in life or death situations.
Nursing bag, medication, and signs cartoon graphic
What you’ll do


You’ll assess and make decisions about a patient’s condition.


You’ll explain medical procedures and treatments, and give updates to your patients’ loved ones.


You’ll monitor the critical condition of patients, which includes operating life support systems.

Where you’ll work
  • Critical care units
  • Flight units
  • Intensive care units
How to become a Critical Care Nurse
Requirements accepted for becoming a critical care nurse include the following:


Get an Associate of Science (ASN), Bachelor of Science (BSN), Master of Science (MSN), or Doctorate in Nursing.


Successful completion of the NCLEX Registered Nurse examination (required for state licensing).


Individual Institutional requirements may include higher nursing degrees, previous experience, or national nursing certification.

Join an Organization
Become a member of a Critical Care Nurse organization to find career opportunities, learn from your colleagues, and support the profession.
Close-up of patient laying in hospital bed with a hospital gown on with medical personnel in background
Nurses Leading Innovation
When a patient is in critical care, nurses are there through every step of their care, from performing assessments and administering therapies, to educating patient families and opening new pathways to improving patient care.
A Gerontological Nurse Practitioner’s role is also higher salary.
A Travel Nurse is another type of emergency nurse.
Latest from Johnson & Johnson Nursing
  • For nurses, more flexibility and better work/life balance are essential. Solutions like Mercy Works on Demand are meeting nurses where they are by offering a gig-based approach to scheduling. Not only is Mercy’s innovative approach addressing shortages and improving patient care, it is also bringing joy back to nursing and demonstrating that a new, flexible future is possible for the profession.
  • Building well-being and leadership skills in nursing isn’t a new concept, but surprisingly, it hasn’t traditionally been a formal component of nursing education. As a result, many nurses enter the profession unprepared for what’s ahead. Beginning this winter, a new educational curriculum from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing will pilot a competency-based approach to developing the next generation of nurses at 10 nursing colleges nationwide, focused on empowering students with the skills needed to prioritize self-care, healthy behaviors and well-being in the healthcare work environment.
  • Johnson & Johnson is proud to have supported nurse innovators and entrepreneurs through the Johnson & Johnson Nurses Innovate QuickFire Challenge Awards, which has provided grant funding for nurse-founded healthcare solutions and approaches. But the innovation journey doesn’t stop there. Here, three inspiring QuickFire Challenge awardees share what they’ve been up to since receiving their award, how their solutions have grown and expanded, and their advice for other nurses inspired to solve for healthcare’s biggest challenges.