Critical Care Nurse Training and Courses

Critical care nurses are essential in patient treatment at hospitals, especially for patients who require unique care or observation during their treatment. Learn about degree and training options along with licensure requirements. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need To Know

Programs that prepare you to become a critical care nurse include coursework in the life sciences and physical sciences. The nursing field as a whole is projected to grow drastically over the next decade. The path to this career can include undergraduate and graduate work.

Schools 2-year and 4-year colleges and universities, nursing or health science schools; a few examples include the University of Maryland, University of California San Francisco, and College of DuPage
Salary (2017)* $70,000 (median annual wage for all registered nurses)
Career Outlook* 15% for all registered nurses (2016-2026)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statics (BLS)

What Is a Critical Care Nurse?

A critical care nurse is a registered nurse (RN) who monitors patients in intensive or critical-care units. Intensive-care units handle patients suffering from serious injuries, illnesses or infectious medical conditions. As an RN working in such a unit, you would primarily observe and treat patients, and also report issues to doctors immediately.

What Training Will I Need?

Most nursing training is a combination of academic knowledge and professional skills gained through work experience. Since a critical care nurse is a type of RN, you need to follow the usual academic and training requirements for RNs. The BLS outlines that either an associate's or bachelor's degree, or a diploma offered through a hospital program, are introductory routes for this career. Associate's or bachelor's degree programs often include internship opportunities or the chance to work under a nurse supervisor at a hospital for school credit.

In addition to the schools mentioned in the table above, other institutions that provide nursing programs for aspiring RNs who wish to become critical care nurses include the following:

  • University of North Carolina-Charlotte
  • The University of Arizona
  • Sentara College of Health Sciences
  • Galen College of Nursing
  • Weatherford College

What Sort of Courses Are Required?

As previously stated, you must complete nursing courses in order to qualify for RN licensure. Associate's and bachelor's degree programs for general nursing often have courses in psychology, human anatomy and physiology, mathematics or statistics, humanities, microbiology and computer skills. Specific nursing courses you will likely take include:

  • Health assessment
  • Pharmacology
  • Nursing concepts
  • Foundations of nursing
  • Community health nursing

You will also take courses and labs focusing on specific areas of nursing, such as surgical nursing, mental health nursing and maternity/child nursing. Higher-level courses you might pursue as an aspiring critical-care nurse include chronic pain management, illness management or population health.

Are Online Critical Care Nursing Programs Available?

Some courses may be taken online, including those offered through continuing education programs. However, any training credits or internships cannot be completed without attending an on-site location.

To gain specific knowledge in critical care, you may enroll in a master's degree in nursing program. Many of the programs aren't online, since hands-on treatment with patients and hours of nurse supervision are required to verify your training. You might find some programs that offer online coursework but require a hands-on field experience in a healthcare facility. The graduate courses that are often taught online include emotional aid, diagnosis assessment, pharmacology and observation assessment.

Do I Need to Become Licensed or Certified?

Whichever academic route you wish to embark on, you eventually need to gain licensure as an RN by completing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). Governed by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), the NCLEX-RN is given to any person who completes their state's RN requirements. The requirements per state might vary depending on academic or pre-professional experience as a nurse.

To be certified as a critical care nurse, you must consult with the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN). Adding this certification highlights your expertise, but it's not required unless an employer wants a job candidate to hold certification. The AACN offers several exams that focus on a particular facet of critical care. For example, if you're trained to help in cardiac surgery, you can take a critical-care exam in that specialty.

Many master's-level nursing programs centered on critical care may prepare you for the certification exams. The AACN doesn't require you to complete a master's program, but it honors a state's specific education requirements concerning a critical-care nurse specialization.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  • Walden University

    Walden University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Walden University:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • Southern New Hampshire University

    Southern New Hampshire University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Southern New Hampshire University:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • Purdue University Global

    Purdue University Global responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Purdue University Global:

    • Doctoral
    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees
    • Certificates

    Online Programs Available

  • Capella University

    Capella University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Capella University:

    • Doctoral
    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available

  • Grand Canyon University

    Grand Canyon University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Grand Canyon University:

    • Doctoral
    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • Regent University

    Regent University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Regent University:

    • Doctoral
    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available

  • Fortis College

    Fortis College responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Fortis College:

    • Associate Programs

    Campus-Based Programs Available:

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    • Florida: Cutler Bay, Orange Park, Port St Lucie
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  • The George Washington University

    The George Washington University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at The George Washington University:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • University of Pennsylvania

    Campus Locations:

    • Pennsylvania: Philadelphia
  • Penn Foster High School

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    Popular programs at Penn Foster High School:

    Online Programs Available